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Today doing some English grammar exercises I stumbled upon the two examples in The passive section:

It is believed that the children had been hiding for two weeks.

It was thought that the book had been destroyed.

The thing that puzzles me much is the usage of Past Perfect in the first sentence

had been hiding

and, probably, in the second sentence

had been destroyed

I had been searching over the Internet for several hours without any comprehensive answer found.

Would anyone please give a reference to the rule that explains the usage of Past Perfect in constructions like that?

The other related case is the following:

The athlete was alleged to have cheated

I'm sorry for what I said. I was trying to be funny. It was supposed to be a joke

The book was thought to have been destroyed

Why can't I say respectively the following:

The athlete was alleged to cheat

It was supposed to have been a joke

The book was thought to be destroyed

I'm able to easily find the rules on more simple constructions like It is thought that ... + Present Indefinite / Present Perfect but no comprehensive sources on similar but + Past Perfect

The book with exercises is highly recognizable btw but it doesn't give the answer

Thanks

  • 'It is believed that the children had been hiding for two weeks before the rebels finally found and captured them. They are believed to be safe and well, though a ransom demand is expected.' Here, the past perfect may be used to set the (assumed) hiding period at a time prior to their being found. // Have you actually Googled for examples of the alternatives you ask about? – Edwin Ashworth Oct 10 '16 at 23:21
  • Edwin, I tried to search for similar examples but without any luck. The book gives only the short versions of sentences (that I provided in the post) without any expansion that would more justify the usage of Past Perfect. Those short versions given in the book totally confused me. – xenn_33 Oct 11 '16 at 8:43
  • As an example, Googling "was supposed to have been" turns up this Grammar Exchange article as the first hit. (Marilyn, rather than Kafkaesque in his/her second article, is the one to listen to.) – Edwin Ashworth Oct 11 '16 at 8:54
  • Edwin, thanks, but the link you pointed out doesn't give the answer on the usage of Past Perfect (without any expansion of the sentence) that confused me in the first place. It answers to the second part of my question here though – xenn_33 Oct 11 '16 at 9:24
  • Any use of the past perfect needs context (whether textual or situational). 'Hello, I'm John. I hadn't been to one of these meetings before.' doesn't make sense. But 'I felt rather uncomfortable, afraid I'd do the wrong thing. I hadn't been to one of these meetings before.' makes perfect sense. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 11 '16 at 9:57
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The past perfect is used to situate something in the distant past, i.e. in the past, prior to something else that happened in the past. Your two example sentences are incomplete. Here's what a complete version might look like:

It is believed that the children had been hiding for two weeks when they were discovered in the cabin in the woods.

It was thought that the book had been destroyed, prior to its surprise discovery.


The athlete was alleged to be a liar

would work, but your sentence isn't right. (You might hear it in informal speech, though.)

It was supposed to have been a joke

This is fine. You could also say

It was supposed to be a joke

which means the same as "It was intended to be a joke."

The book was thought to have the author's autograph in the inscription

would work, but the way you wrote it does not work.

  • Thanks. For me (being the non-native speaker) the difference between 'The athlete was alleged to be a liar' and 'The athlete was alleged to cheat' is very subtle. Could you please expand on why the latter is grammatically incorrect? Are 'The athlete was alleged to be cheating' and '..to have been cheating' also both incorrect? – xenn_33 Oct 11 '16 at 11:51

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