# he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish

I'm a non English language user, but I saw this sentence in a book:

He had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

If i was the writer of that sentence, I think I would use something like:

He didn't take a fish during eighty-four days.

So what's my problem? Why does the second sentence seem more logical for me? I would never trust and use that first sentence whatever it true.

I never have been in a country where people speak English.

So should I speak like the first sentence? How do I understand that way it is written?

• Hello, the first sentence is correct. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 23:06
• The second sentence is perfectly adequate, and would communicate what you wanted. It would be better if it was "he hadn't taken a fish for eight-four days". That is, the past perfect is somewhat better than the past in Hemingway's context, and during isn't usually used for time intervals like ten days today (although Ngrams seems to say it was in the 19th century). Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 23:18
• @Michael: Since during was used like this in the 19th century, it's a natural usage, and also perfectly comprehensible; it just happens to not be used this way today. I don't know how you could figure it out. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 23:31
• @MichaelRiva Running doesn't have anything to do with the fish in Andy’s sentence. It modifies the 84 days; it is an adjective here that means ‘in a row’, so 84 days running means ‘84 consecutive days’ or ‘84 days in a row’. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 23:45
• No one is wondering about 'taking a fish'? Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 1:56

"He had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish." I see your "problem", as you call it.

This sentence uses an expression, "to go without", which means "to be denied or deprived of (something, esp food)".

Further, when we refer to the quantity of time that has gone by, we use the word, "now", which means, "it's been eighty-four days until now".

"He didn't take a fish during eighty-four days." - There is a problem with this sentence. It's not conveying the same meaning as the original sentence, with respect to the use of tense. "He had not eaten (caught) a fish for eighty-four days." is close. "for" conveys the same meaning as "during" in such contexts.

• @ab2 nice question, According to that answer, I guess "had not cought" is not right meaning, I mean if I use that second sentence it means "to eat" wrongly, so thats why I need to use "had not eaten" not "to cought". Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 0:07
• Peter Schor says this is a quote from Hemingway. Thus, "take" in this context in all probability means "catch" not "eat". "had not caught a fish" would be OK. But you are correct that "had not taken" can, in some contexts, mean "had not eaten." (This is merely my first comment, modified to be more informative.)
– ab2
Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 0:13
• @ab2 nice question, According to that answer, I guess "had not cought" is not right meaning, I mean if I use that second sentence it means "to eat" wrongly, so thats why I need to use "had not eaten" not "to cought". So if I use cought here, I could use: Today is very nice day He was in the sea during eighty-four days and until now He had not caouht a fish" Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 0:14
• My pleasure! Edited as per comments, and based on the likely context. Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 1:40

It is correct. I read it as "(at the past instant that we are imagining) he had gone eighty-four days now (emphasing that we are to imagine that particular instant)" without taking a fish. The effect of the sentence is to place the reader firmly with the man at that moment in the past. Your alternative is a correct construction but gives no such feeling, merely a statement that someone sometime hadn't caught fish for 84 days.

He had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

If i was the writer of that sentence, I think I would use something like:

He didn't take a fish during eighty-four days.

Well, Michael, that's why he's Hemingway and you're not :)

During and for express different ideas with respect to time.

"During" refers to time as a bounded duration.

I do not see her during the work-week, only on weekends, because she lives in Washington D.C. and I live in Philadelphia.

But the Hemingway passage requires a word that refers to the time-span as a measure (length) of time. To refer to a length of time we use "for":

I have not seen my uncle for five years.

I have not seen my uncle during five years. [ungrammatical]