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How "James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher" is Correct Sentence?

Can anyone explain?

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Not without quotes and punctuation:

James, while John had had “had,” had had “had had;” “had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

The context is two students writing a sentence on some graded work, such as:

Bill had the measles.

Bill had had the measles.

When wanting to know why James scored better, the sentence above explains the reason, although I'd probably explain it like this:

James scored better because he used the right verb: had had, instead of just had.

The sentence is not unlike the famous Buffalo sentence; it's a contrived example to show how many times a single word can be strung together consecutively in a sentence. Another example is the sign maker who criticizes her own work by saying:

I should have put more space between ham and and and and and eggs.

on a sign that that looks too much like TODAY'S SPECIAL: HAMANDEGGS.


(That ‘that that’ that that last sentence has should just read ‘that.’)

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    Can't resist pointing out to the signwriter that in her self-criticism she should have put more space between 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'and' and 'eggs'. – Tim Lymington May 19 '13 at 13:57
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    @Tim: If only HTML would let her! – J.R. May 19 '13 at 14:30
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JR is right. It's the difference between the past simple & the past perfect. Put another way: James, where John had used the past simple, had used the past perfect; the past perfect had gained the teacher's approval.

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To make it grammatically correct, you have to punctuate it correctly: James, where John had had 'had', had had 'had had'; 'had had' had had a better effect on the teacher. For more information on had had, try What does "had had" mean? How does this differ from "had"? or a grammar book.

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