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Language is fun; you only need to love it. Grabbing the rules helps you accomplish tasks, build relationships and have authority over situations and people.
Let’s get down to one such rule – past perfect tense (had had)
Note these simple situations:
1. Have/has is an auxiliary verb. That is, it helps to determine the tense of a verb.
Example 1: Donita has called the secretary. (Has helps us know Donita called the secretary not long ago.)
2. The perfect tense of has/have is had.
* Perfect tense means an action has been fully completed not long before the present moment or speech time.
* The perfect tense comes in two forms – present perfect and past perfect. The past perfect happens before the present perfect.
Example 1 is a present perfect tense.
Past perfect becomes: Donita had called the secretary.
3. Has/have/had can also be a main verb. This means that any of those 3 words can tell what action is taking place or the state of being of a noun.
Example 2: Donita has a phone.
There’s no other verb in example 2 apart from ‘has’, which tells us that Donita currently owns a phone.
4. Sometimes we have to talk about actions that took place not long ago in relation to another action which took place long ago before speech time.
Let’s look at these examples:
Example 3: Donita has called the secretary.
Example 4: Donita called the secretary because the manager needed a file from her.
Assumption: After 30 minutes, your friend who was out of the office but heard rumours of Donita’s call to the secretary asks you, “Why did Donita call the secretary?”
How do you tell this incident (example 3 and 4) in one sentence to a friend after 30 minutes?
* Note 1: The manager wanting the file happened before Donita called the secretary.
Therefore, at speech or reporting time, the manager’s action becomes past tense and Donita’s action becomes the past perfect tense.
Example 5: The answer therefore is, ‘Donita had had to call the secretary because the manager needed a file from her.
Let’s look at another example:
Example 6: I had had the idea of working with a media house before joining Amnesty International.
* This sentence means that not long ago, I wanted to work with a media house, but there’s been a change of mind and I now work with Amnesty International.
* The first had is the past perfect tense of the main verb have.
* The second had is an auxiliary verb which helps us know when the change of mind occurred in relation to speech time.