I had the sentence "I haven't read the flashcards I have made these past few days."

Someone corrected it with "I haven't read the flashcards I made these past few days"

Then someone corrected that with "I haven't read the flashcards that I had made over these past few days."

Who is correct and why?

  • I'd say a rewrite is necessary for disambiguation. ""I haven't, over the past few days, read the flashcards I have made." "I have made some flashcards over the last few days, but I haven't read them.' ... Jul 6 '17 at 23:49

They're all three grammatical. And they mean the same thing.

There are two different issues here. One is the unnecessary use of past perfect constructions (they're rare because simple past is all you need in most cases); and the other is the optional deletion of that in complement clauses. Both are optional, so it's speaker's choice, and any differences are strictly stylistic.

The fact that some people correct it just means that they (think they) would use it differently; most people don't know enough grammar to be able to decide why, or even whether, it's correct. And probably it means also that they've been taught (incorrectly) that there's always only one grammatical choice (this is what comes of using standardized tests).

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of grammatical ways to say anything.

  • The omission of 'over' is unusual over here in the UK. / Wouldn't the first two variants be ambiguous in the States? Isn't the last variant ambiguous anywhere? Jul 6 '17 at 23:43
  • They're all ambiguous in many ways; that's normal for written English sentences. Ambiguity is a key feature of human language, not a bug. All the sentences are grammatical and they all mean the same thing(s); how's that? Jul 7 '17 at 21:01

Both corrections are valid, but they have different meanings. It depends on whether you were making the flashcards yourself, or having them made by someone else.

My guess is that something elsewhere in your text prompted the reviewer to choose one form over another.


The answer, as is frequently the case, depends on what you intend to say.

The first formulation is certainly awkward and ambiguous, but I do not go so far as to say that it is grammatically impossible. I probably would not writie it unless no other formulation expressed my meaning.

"I haven't read the flashcards that I made a few days ago" makes clear the present state (not read as of now) and the sequence of events (the making was in the past).

"I haven't read the flashcards that I have been making these past few days" makes clear the present state (not read) and the sequence (the making started in the past and is not necessarily terminated).

"I haven't read the flashcards that I had been making these past few days" is in my opinion just wrong. The "haven't read" indicates a present state. The past perfect implies a completed action or state that preceded a past action or state.

  • could you consider the second correction with "that I had made"? Jul 6 '17 at 19:04
  • I continue to think that the past perfect is just wrong when the main clause relates to a present state. Jul 6 '17 at 19:32
  • So you would agree that the simple past "made" is correct? Someone also brought up the issue of tense agreement throughout a sentence. Is this just disregarded most of the time? Thank you for your responses btw Jul 6 '17 at 19:36
  • Why does past perfect not work well with present perfect in this case? Jul 6 '17 at 19:41
  • also, I thought haven't read is past perfect? Jul 6 '17 at 19:46

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