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Old 12-18-2017, 11:36 AM   #1
MrIllusion
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Question about tenses from a non native English speaker

Hello,

As a non-native English speaker, I now send all of my stories to an editor for spelling/grammar. Nevertheless I still try to do my best to learn proper English. One of my issues is the different tenses, especially when a character thinks back to something that happened previously.

I know I should use "had" when this happens, but sometimes it feels like I need to use "had" every other word.

Here's an example of what I think works, but I'm not sure because there are so many "had" that it feels kind of broken. It's also more complicated because there are two recursive "looking back" moments.

Thanks for any input.


---
Part of me was hesitant about this whole thing, even on what would probably become my death bed. My wife had been immensely jealous of Megan even though I had never done anything inappropriate with her. Except maybe for that one time I ogled her around the spa, nothing else had happened. But my wife was sensitive about her and we often had big clashes over small things.

In fact, the last time we had a big argument over Megan was two days before we got my cancer diagnosis. I don’t even remember what had triggered it. Probably some photos of her that I had taken during a party. It had been awful. And then the cancer diagnosis had fallen and everything changed. A few days later my wife had sat me down in our living room and had said that she was done being jealous of Megan.

At that time, we hadn’t known how bad things would get with my health. It had still been possible for me to fully heal. Nevertheless, it had shaken us. My wife had decided that she was done being jealous. She had said that she was perfectly aware that Megan was extremely beautiful and unimaginably desirable. She had then said that it was normal for me to be attracted to her and that she knew that I had never done anything untoward with her. She had even said that she wouldn’t mind if I wanted to stare at her from time to time.

Strangely enough, that had led to a night of very intense sex. And I mean intense. After having received an amazing blowjob and watching her ride me in cowgirl, my wife had gotten on all fours and offered me her ass. And I do mean her ass. A minute and a lot of lube later I had been fucking her ass. Anal sex wasn’t something we did often, but I was still blessed with such a gift roughly three or four times a year. And that night had been the night!

And suddenly, my wife had asked me if I was thinking about Megan. I had frozen. Completely frozen. And I had suddenly understood why she had asked that. It wasn’t only because of her earlier declaration. Three weeks earlier, I had caught the two women talking in our living room, more than slightly drunk. When I entered the living room I had hear Megan say “Who the fuck doesn’t like anal sex?” The girls had been laughing and had only laughed harder when they’d seen me. Even my wife.

Last edited by MrIllusion : 10-03-2018 at 04:33 PM.
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Old 12-18-2017, 11:47 AM   #2
sr71plt
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Although perfect past is correct, in commercial writing simple past is also correct and preferred in some cases. Thus, your one paragraph,

Part of me was hesitant about this whole thing, even on what would probably become my death bed. My wife had been immensely jealous of Megan even though I had never done anything inappropriate with her. Except maybe for that one time I ogled her around the spa, nothing else had happened. But my wife was sensitive about her and we often had big clashes over small things.

in story writing, this can be more simply rendered:

Part of me was hesitant about this whole thing, even on what would probably become my death bed. My wife had been immensely jealous of Megan even though I never did anything inappropriate with her. Except maybe for that one time I ogled her around the spa, nothing else happened. But my wife was sensitive about her and we often had big clashes over small things.

More simplification could be done to this passage, depending on the context of the rest of the story, but the two changes show what could most easily be rendered in the simple past without losing intended meaning. Unfortunately, the nuances of English are so complex and inconsistent that it isn't easy for a non-English speaker to know what can be done and what can't.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:21 PM   #3
MrIllusion
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Thanks for the info.

Is there a rule of thumb I could use? I corrected the other paragraphs, but it felt haphazard. I used a "had" in the first sentence of a paragraph and then switched to simple past.

Eager to see what my next editor will say.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:28 PM   #4
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No rule of thumb, unfortunately. It's something a native English speaker usually can discern on a case-by-case basis, but won't make much of any sense to the nonnative English speaker. There will even be differences between British and American style within native English speakers. If when you've used past perfect you sound out how simple past would work after the whole context has been established, you might find instances where the simple past works just fine and makes for a smoother read.
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:28 PM   #5
oggbashan
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Some of Literotica readers don't know about tenses although they think they do. I have had adverse comments from people who don't recognise, and presumably don't use the subjunctive.

If you have studied English as a foreigner you are likely to be more accurate in verb use than a native speaker. In the UK, and to some extent in the US as well, grammar teaching has been neglected for decades. Any English speaker who wants to learn a foreign language has to learn the grammatical structure of English as well as learning the other language.

This is a useful guide for those reading this thread:

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/verb-conjugation/

And this:

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Old 12-20-2017, 03:32 PM   #6
oggbashan
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The elusive subjunctive in English

The subjunctive:

https://www.englishpage.com/minituto...bjunctive.html

http://www.wordpower.ws/grammar/gramch09.html
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It's like [oggbashan] is writing for the third puffin over there by the sixth rock, when everyone else is an emperor penguin in the Antarctic, where there's tens of thousands of the bastards.

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Old 12-21-2017, 11:13 AM   #7
MrIllusion
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Thanks for the added input. I'll check the grammarly link.
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Old 12-24-2017, 10:00 PM   #8
Alice_Rosaleen
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Some advice

I'm no grammar expert, but here's one way to think about it. Let's take your first sentence, I was hesitant. That's saying at that moment in narration, they are hesitant.
Let's say though they are thinking about yesterday- I was hesitant to do that. That implies you did so hesitantly. But let's say you started hesitant but got more comfortable. You'd say, I had been hesitant. Or let's say you almost were, but something changed, then you'd say I would have been hesitant.
What about I had thought, I was thinking. The first implies a way of thinking in the indefinite past. That was what I thought at a previous time. I was thinking says I am currently or was recently having this thought.
There are many more rules, but this is one way of figuring out the tense you need.
Hope this helps.
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