but he'd had his good luck too.

What are those two had(s) representing?


‘had had’ will sound strange to many people, because two quite different uses of the word ‘had’ are placed side by side. The first ‘had’ is an auxiliary, which generates what used to be called a ‘pluperfect’. The second is the past of ‘have’ in the sense of ‘possessed’ or ‘acquired’.

You would probably not bat an eyelid to read “he’d acquired...”.

Think of has had and had had as past in the past. Take “by the time he got back into his car, he’d had far too much to drink.” the narrative is set in the past. The reference time is his getting back into his car. The excessive drinking is in the past in relation to that (past) reference time.

The had had can sound a bit clumsy. One simple way round it is a simple, if possible relevant, adverb to keep them apart. So “.... he had already had far too much ...”.

  • I'm thinking I even once saw a legitimate use of "had had had". The English language can do strange things. – Hot Licks Dec 30 '18 at 21:50
  • @HotLicks So it can. – Tuffy Dec 31 '18 at 22:04
  • Certainly the Can Can can. – Hot Licks Dec 31 '18 at 22:10
  • @HotLicks So the can can can can the whole argument. – Tuffy Dec 31 '18 at 22:13

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