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In an American-English fiction book there is a sentence which reads:

Without makers to show them new ways, show them new forms of magic, the gifted were left with doing only that which been done before.

Is this sentence grammatically accurate or should it end as either

...that which had been done before.

or

...that which have been done before.

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    Which book is this? The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind? – Kit Z. Fox Jan 24 '14 at 12:33
  • That's right. It's a sentence towards the end of the 34th chapter of the book, but as I read it over and over again, it seemed incomplete. – user63294 Jan 24 '14 at 13:08
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first sentence is correct and second one wrong. because for that we use has. any way even if it was has it wasn't completely correct , because with the word "before" and "after" we usually use past perfect not present perfect.

[answer] (http://www.espressoenglish.net/difference-between-present-perfect-and-past-perfect-in-english/)

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'...that which had been done before.' But the writer could also have said '... that which has been done before.' But my own preference is 'had'.

  • They have different meanings. ...(W)ere left with... must be followed by had been done, though the writer could have said are left with what has been done before. – TimLymington Jan 24 '14 at 14:10
  • @TimLymington Are you sure? Let's say you and I have been running a successful business for the last 20 years. Some 'fly by nights' have persuaded the owners that they can do better and we have been sacked. The new mob plan to do all sorts of new things which eventually they find impossible and they too get fired. You and I meet in a pub for a drink, and I'm reporting all this to you. I say 'They were left with doing all the things that you and I have done many times'. I know one could equally use 'had', but what's wrong with 'have'? – WS2 Jan 24 '14 at 16:35
  • A fair point, and there is little or no difference as used. But I think even in your example there is a technical difference between the things we had done at the time you are talking about and the things we have done by now; presumably there are more of the latter. – TimLymington Jan 24 '14 at 18:09
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I asked about the book because this construction is sometimes heard in colloquial English, and if the novel were written in a story-telling kind of dialect, the omission of had could be intentional.

After reading an excerpt of the book, I think it is possible that the 'had' was dropped to convey dialect, but seems more likely that it was a typo.

  • I agree it's possible that the author may have omitted the 'had' to convey a dialect, but as it was part of the authors narrative rather than something one of his characters was directly saying, I'd tend to agree it's more likely a typo. Unfortunately as it's his first self-published work, I don't think it was proof-read before being released as I've discovered about a dozen or so other errors and am only just over half way through the novel, which is a shame as he's a brilliant writer in my humble opinion. – user63294 Jan 25 '14 at 12:22

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