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As far as I know, Past Perfect comes along with Past Simple, but can it be used together with Present Perfect? I've read the following sentence in a book, so I assume it's an example of a narrative reported/indirect speech:

She knew that many of the men who had followed him into that battle had never marched back

Which of the two sentences is correct? (or more grammatically correct)

  1. She knows that many of the men who have followed him into that battle have never marched back.

  2. She knows that many of the men who had followed him into that battle have never marched back.

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Your question is "As far as I know, Past Perfect comes along with Past Simple, but can it be used together with Present Perfect?". The answer depends on where they appear in the sentence.

You have changed "she knew that" from simple perfect to simple present "she knows that". In its new form, it no longer makes any difference to the tenses, as the situation now is the situation that she knows.

The key event in the past is the battle. Looking at the possibilities that you suggested, plus a couple of others, for parts A and B of the rest of the sentence, we have:

A1) many of the men who had followed him into that battle

past perfect simple - valid because it was a completed action before the battle

A2) many of the men who have followed him into that battle

present perfect simple - not valid because it is no longer in force

A3) many of the men who followed him into that battle

past simple - valid because it's still a completed action.

B1) [the men] have never marched back

present perfect simple - valid because it started in the past and continues into the present

B2) [the men] had never marched back

past perfect simple - not valid because it wasn't a completed action before the battle

B3) [the men] never marched back

past simple - valid because, if they were going to come back, they would have done it long before now, so not having done it is a completed action.

B4) [the men] did not march back

past simple - valid (see B3).

You have several choices, then:

A1 works with B1 and B3 (B2 is out anyway and B4 doesn't sound right)

A2 is out, as explained above

A3 works with B1, B3 and B4

  • I notice that you changed the OP's "into that battle" into simply "into battle". To my mind, this changes the meaning of the sentence slightly. "Into that battle" obviously refers to a specific battle, but "into battle" is more general, so "many of the men who have followed him into battle" is perfectly acceptable, as in "She knows that many of the men who have followed him into battle..." because they could be following him into battle as a general practice. – stangdon Mar 21 '16 at 18:53
  • You are right, @stangdon, I have inserted the crucial missing words. Thanks for pointing it out. – JavaLatte Mar 21 '16 at 18:58
  • question about A1. isn't the past perfect used when referring to an action taking place before another action rather than an event? also, how would you interpret the original sentence? grammatically i mean, not logically. – J.Bakk Mar 22 '16 at 19:19
  • Past perfect simple is used for an action completed (or an event that occurred) before an event in the past. The action is follow, expressed as had followed in past perfect simple. The event that it occurred before is that battle. – JavaLatte Mar 22 '16 at 19:29
  • i see. rereading my textbook it mentions both activity and a time aka event. but again, the original sentence, the one written in the book, it's in reported speech right? so in your opinion how would it look if it were in direct speech? – J.Bakk Mar 22 '16 at 19:33

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