We’re having a discussion here on whether or not to use the past perfect in following sentence:

The cargo was visible through the gap and was noted to have (had?) sustained damage.

Which is correct and why?

4 Answers 4


The version without had is correct.

The perfect aspect in English is formed by using the auxiliary verb have (or for some verbs be) in the appropriate tense or construction, followed by the past participle of the main verb, in this case sustain.

More or less all constructions of the auxiliary verb are allowed in perfect constructions (even ones that mix in another aspect: progressiveness)—but not perfect constructions themselves. You can make present perfects, past perfects, future perfects, past subjunctive perfects, present progressive perfects, infinitive perfects, past progressive perfects, etc. But you cannot make a perfect perfect or a past perfect perfect.

In your case, have had is the infinitive perfect of have, while have sustained is the infinitive perfect of sustain. But *have had sustained is an impossible perfect infinitive perfect.

Of course, if you intended “to have (had?)” to mean that you were considering “to had” a possibility, that is immediately rejected: this use of to marks an infinitive, and had is past tense. An infinitive marker on a past tense verb is always ungrammatical.


The correct form is have!

This is beacause you are refering to an action and specifically after a to.

Statements like this always have an infinitive to point to the main action described.


Our English professor is said to be the oldest professor in the university.


The market as some experts believe was claimed to have the best products when it was four years old.

  • 1
    There is a have in the example already; to have had is also an infinitive, just not one that can form part of a perfect construction. (Also, please use proper blockquoting on ELU, rather than indenting. It looks nicer.) Jun 25, 2014 at 10:32

And was noted to have sustained damage is correct. With the verb sustained, had is not necessary. Without the past tense verb sustained in the sentence, the auxiliary past tense verb had would be necessary to convey that the damage occurred in the past. In other words have sustained is already past perfect without had in the phrase.


Correct Sentence is:

"The cargo was visible through the gap and was noted to have sustained damage"

In addition to this sentence: He was working hard to have won the match.

  • Please indicate why you think so. Jun 25, 2014 at 10:30
  • Thanks, but why is 'to had sustained damage" wrong (use of past perfect to define one event happening before another)
    – Pascal
    Jun 25, 2014 at 10:31

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