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I have a question about the past perfect.

A mother was charged guilty unless at least one person had witnessed that she had given birth or unless the accused could prove that she had made preparations regarding childbirth or for the child itself.

Somebody told me I shouldn´t use it for "had given birth" and use the simple past (gave birth) instead without explaining why but the birth did happen before they might have been found guilty, didn´t it. Therefore I should use the past perfect?

  • By witness, do you mean observe or testify? It can mean either. I think the person giving you grammatical advice assumed that it meant observe, in which case their criticism is correct. – Peter Shor Feb 28 '18 at 13:10
  • It means to testify. This must have happened before a possible trial. In case of it meaning "observe" wouldn't you have to change both verbs:...charged guilty unless at least one person witnessed that she gave birth or....? – Marcin Nowak Feb 28 '18 at 13:18
  • I should explain the context I guess. This is about infanticide. The trial took place if a woman was suspected to have killed her newborn child. To witness birth (meaning observe) doesn´t make sense in that context since a pregnant woman would not have been brought to trial (if it was physically obvious that she was pregnant). That´s why I was wondering.... – Marcin Nowak Feb 28 '18 at 13:29
  • The two alternatives would be had witnessed her giving birth or witnessed [in court] that she had given birth. However, the woman would not have been brought to trial unless she was known to have given birth. Didn't the witness have to testify that the child had been stillborn or died of natural causes? – Kate Bunting Feb 28 '18 at 13:40
  • I am confused right now. I meant to say that somebody had to witness her giving birth in the past in court. That should be "witnessed" and had given birth" right? How do you come with the first alternative? – Marcin Nowak Feb 28 '18 at 13:53

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