I'm trying to find out if there is a term to describe the style of literary narration where you tell the story in the perfect tense, but you only have the same knowledge that the character in that moment has. For example (based on a real example I read recently):

With future knowledge:

They spelt my name wrong on that night's performance lineup sheet in Tokyo.

Without future knowledge:

I (Chris) looked at the performance lineup sheet for the Tokyo show and didn't see my name on it. I wasn't selected to perform that night, and felt deflated. And I envied the guy who was, with a curiously similar name to mine - "Clise". Then the director came up to me and said, "Are you ready to break a leg tonight, Clise?" Then I realized he'd spelt my name wrong.

EDIT - a clearer example

With future knowledge:

The team lost their first of many cup finals against their deadly rivals.

Without future knowledge:

The team lost against their deadly rivals in 1930.


1 Answer 1



We use Simple Past if we give past events in the order in which they occured.

However, when we look back from a certain time in the past to tell what had happened before, we use Past Perfect.

Normal order in the past or looking back to an event before a certain time in the past?

Do you just want to tell what happened some time in the past or do you want to tell what had happened before/up to a certain time in the past?

Simple Past: some time in the past

Jane got up at seven. She opened her birthday presents and then the whole family went to the zoo.

Perfect Simple: before/up to a certain time in the past

Before her sixth birthday, Jane had never been to the zoo.

  • 1
    This isn't quite apt. The OP is talking about a narrator who talks about completed events in the past tense but can comment about the place of those events in future time. Thus in the penultimate example in the OP, the narrator reports that the team lost a cup final (past tense) but that it was but one of many losses that had yet to occur (future knowledge).
    – deadrat
    Oct 17, 2016 at 18:49
  • Do you know what is the concept/term to distinguish between these then? Oct 17, 2016 at 18:51
  • 1
    The closest I can come is universal omniscient, in which a third person narrator knows things that the characters don't, which would include future events, of course, but wouldn't be limited to them. In Third person objective narration, the narrator doesn't know the things that the characters can't know, but that includes not only future events but other things like what the characters are thinking. By the way, I am not the downvoter, and you're free to use this comment to research and perhaps to amend your answer if you wish.
    – deadrat
    Oct 17, 2016 at 19:01

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