His words had been too many to fit into a notecard.

(I'm using had been instead of were because it's a past-tense narrative. And the person is already dead.)

What puzzles me is that the phrase words had been too many has no results on Google. Zero.

Why is this? Is there a grammatical mistake? Or people just tend to use were even in the past tense, even if the person is no longer alive?


Same with thoughts:

His thoughts had been too many to fit into a notecard.

  • words were too many is still applicable.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 13:25
  • 1
    Both are correct. The tense could be anything depending upon the context.
    – Sankarane
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 13:34
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    Think of the construction as implying an implicit/deleted element - [the quantity/number of] his words were too many. If you find fault with the usage, I suggest your objections are too many. Your usage of had been rather than simple were is credible, but will probably come across as excessively verbose in most contexts. Don't get over-enthusiastic about using Past Perfect just because you can. Commented May 15, 2015 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


I guess, one cannot depend upon 'Google' to find all answers as it's primarily a Search Engine.

Tense doesn't matter, as it varies depending upon the context. Both are correct.

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