This sentence is giving me trouble:

For several days I (have/had) not had the chance to see her until a few hours ago.

I think had is correct because the time reference is a few hours ago, which is in the past.

What do you think?


You are quite right. A few hours ago is your Reference time, and you are speaking of the several days before that, so the past perfect is required.

Since you're working with two different time phrases, your sentence will be a little clearer if you rearrange the pieces so that the Reference time is established before your verb; either:

For several days, until a few hours ago, I had not had the chance to see her.


Until a few hours ago, I had not had the chance to see her for several days.

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  • I prefer dashes to mark the temporal adverbials as having equal independent standing: For several days - (indeed,) until (just) a few hours ago - I had not had the chance to see her. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '13 at 15:41
  • @EdwinAshworth I agree, under those circumstances; but if in the larger context a few hours ago is of secondary interest I'll parenthesize with commas -- but I would then probably prefer the second version. It's really a matter of what's coming up in the next sentence. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 17 '13 at 15:48

I would recommend using 'have' as otherwise it would sound weird having to say 'had' twice in such close vicinity.

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