I came across something really strange today in class. Because it was an anecdote, the story changed from past to present. Then, in the same sentence, the writer used the past perfect tense with the present tense.

"I go into the room, and see the guy take my bag that I had left there."

Can this possibly be correct?

1 Answer 1


Yes, I think there is an exception for "historic present".

In this context, both "have left" and "had left" are possible, but there is a difference in meaning (at least for me): "have left" brings the act of leaving into the story, whereas "had left" puts it outside the story, before the story started, perhaps. However, the distinction is not really a matter of chronology, but of narrative focus.

  • 1
    +1 for that last sentence. Personally, I was actually "expecting/hoping for" past tense "had left" before I even got to it. Things get complicated if you have to imagine the leaving of the bag as something central to the narrative, which as you say is what the present tense implies. Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 0:49

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