3

I'm studying English and I want to ask about a sentence from my book:

For myself I kept a solitary piece of china, one of the few remaining plates from the set my grandfather bought my mother for her wedding.

I think it should be like this:

For myself I kept a solitary piece of china, one of the few remaining plates from the set my grandfather had bought my mother for her wedding.

It's because — clearly — grandfather had bought the china before I took them.

I think grammatically had bought is more accurate. However, is bought grammatically acceptable? Or is the book wrong?

  • 1
    Please see also English Language Learners – Kris Jul 23 '14 at 8:26
  • Welcome to ELU.SE! There are many questions in the sidebar on the right which probably have something to do with this query. Have you looked at those to see if your question is already answered? – Andrew Leach Jul 23 '14 at 8:27
  • Both with and without had are grammatical, both make sense. There's a very significant pragmatic difference, though, that is to say they do not mean quite the same thing. – Kris Jul 23 '14 at 8:27
  • Hello, 85954. Your version is certainly correct, logical, and a sensible choice (as has been discussed on this site before). However, where the meaning is not obscured, the simple past is often (and legitimately) chosen where the past perfect would be more logical, as a convenience. After all, if you have a sequence of 3 or more events, you run out of tenses: *For myself I kept a solitary piece of china, one of the few remaining plates from the set my grandfather had bought my mother after they had had married. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 23 '14 at 9:45
2

Mechanically, simple past tense bought works, as the verb functions in the past tense within the dependent clause "one of the few remaining plates from the set my grandfather bought my mother for her wedding." The reader is dealing with two distinct clauses: an independent, followed by a dependent. Were the thought expressed in the dependent clause part of the independent clause, then past perfect would be more consistent. For example, "For myself I kept a piece of china that my grandfather had bought my mother for her wedding."

Stylistically, though, it seems had bought would make the time of the purchase clearer, due to the proximity of the two thoughts. This edit would come down to the copyeditor's choice. I would most likely choose clarity over mechanical correctness and go with had bought.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.