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I text-messaged my friend on his cell phone last night and this morning I got a reply saying, "I had saved your number, ...but I didn't check my cell until now.."

Is "didn't check until now" okay, or should it be "hadn't checked it until now" ?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Hadn't checked until now would be incorrect, as hadn't checked (or had not checked) is the past perfect tense, meaning he would be saying that something had not yet occurred at a moment in the past. However, now indicates that the point of reference is the present.

I think your primary confusion is the change in tense from had saved (past perfect) to didn't check (simple past). I would actually take issue with the first part and change it to the simple past to match the second half:

I saved your number, ...but didn't check my cell until now

Though I personally would suggest a simple past followed by a present perfect:

I saved your number, ...but haven't checked my cell until now.

But keep in mind that grammar (and spelling... and in some cases coherence) are rarely considered mandatory in text messages.

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It's worth mentioning that a present perfect version of this phrase ("haven't checked until now") would be just as viable as the simple past version. It fooled me for a moment :-) – user1579 May 25 '11 at 15:10
To me, haven't checked implies an ongoing activity, which belies the additional until now. Are you sure that hadn't checked is wrong? It shows a past, continuous activity now over, which matches the tense. The alternative, I didn't check my cell, implies that the message was received through some other means, perhaps by taking the phone out to call someone else. --"Did I miss your call? Oops! I haven't checked my cell all night. I just took it out to phone my sister and I saw your text. I'm sorry I didn't check it earlier." --"That's all right, I hadn't checked mine until now, either." – Lunivore May 25 '11 at 19:52
@Linuvore I agree with snumpy, I don't think hadn't checked is correct. @snumpy Isn't there some kind of grammar rule about switching tenses? I remember learning, albeit in grade school so it was pretty simplified, to stick with one tense. Therefore I'd say the first example of yours saved, but didn't check would be the better of the two. If I'm wrong please correct me because I hate that rule anyway. – redbmk Jul 6 '11 at 17:54
  1. Didn't check would mean, an activity, checking, was not done. Whether they check always or not.

  2. Hadn't checked would mean, possession of, checking activity. Which leads to the meaning, he/she would always check there sth(something, cell) but on this occasion it was not done.

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"Didn't check until now" has the meaning that his cell wasn't checked up until now.

"Hadn't checked until now" had the meaning that he was going to check it but did not have the chance until now.

So it depends whether your friend was delayed or not.

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@Third - "Hadn't check" s/b "hadn't check_ed_". – MT_Head May 25 '11 at 6:57
Thanks, well pointed out. Why didn't you try editing it? – Thursagen May 25 '11 at 6:59
Grrr... apparently the minimal subset of Markdown in the comments doesn't allow bolding or underlining just part of a word... – MT_Head May 25 '11 at 6:59
@Third - I don't have edit privileges (on other peoples' comments and questions) yet. Another 99,000 rep or so, I think. – MT_Head May 25 '11 at 7:00
@Mt_Head, if you edit and it is peer reviewed and passed, you get two reputation points! – Thursagen May 25 '11 at 7:05

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