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TOPIC: Present perfect tense vs past perfect tense

Present perfect tense vs past perfect tense #639

  • kenniey
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Dear Dr English
In the magazine of the Language Key, the issue of September 2000, on the attached page 11, Correct These Errors, the correct answer to number 9 is ‘we can do this work, but it will take much longer than we had expected.’

I understand the grammar of the incorrect modal verb ‘may’ used here instead of 'can', but I couldn’t work out the grammar of the past perfect tense (had expected) at the end of this sentence.

Is it possible to use the present perfect tense of ‘have expected’ to replace this past perfect tense?

I would be very grateful if you could help me with it.
Best regards
Kennie
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Present perfect tense vs past perfect tense #643

  • Dr_English
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Hi Kennie

Thanks for your question and it's good to see you learning from old issues of The Language Key magazine.

The corrected sentence should be "We can do the work but it will take much longer than we had expected."

I realise the use of the past perfect does sound unusual in this case but we have to assume this is their second conversation on the subject. In the first conversation they may have said "We can do the work and it will cost xxx." The second conversation suggests they've recalculated the costs. The past perfect is later used because the original expectations were incorrect, so they're looking back into the past when making this statement.

I hope this is clear.
Dr English
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