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2011年9月13日 星期二

Past Perfect Tense


這篇網誌的初稿在一個月前便寫起了,只是資料比較繁複,所以直到今天趁公衆假期(其實我天天都是假期 )才「的起心肝」將它整理好。這篇文章標題簡單,但內容其實比較複雜也頗長,大家要耐心點看。

早前有人去信古德明的專欄問了以下的問題:

問:讀 National Geographic(國家地理雜誌),見到以下一句: I had worked in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest 26 years ago。說明事情什麼時候發生的句子,不是不可以用完成式動詞的嗎?
答:現在完成式( present perfect tense)動詞,一般的確不會用於說明事發時間的句子,例如 I saw him yesterday一語,改用現在完成式,就是 I have seen him,不可說 I have seen him yesterday。不過,過去完成式( past perfect tense)動詞卻不同,可以說明時間。牛津出版社 A Practical English Grammar(實用英語文法)第十八章就有以下例句: He met her in Paris in 1977. He had last seen her ten years before

我看了古德明的說法,覺得很狐疑,因為這顛覆了我一向對past perfect tense這課題的認知。在求真的心態駒使下,我做了點研究看看孰是孰非。首先我們來看看古德明為什麼會這樣說。唔講唔知,原來他曾為A Practical English Grammar (4/ed) 寫英漢版的序言,這就不難理解為何他會以這本書的說法為依歸。A Practical English Grammar的確是一本詳備的文法書,特別是在上世紀七、八十年代而言。在當時這類文法書在市場上是相當罕有的(Michael SwanPractical English Usage要等到八十年代初才面世)。但我認為一個學者不能單就一本書的說法而匆匆妄下定論。

無疑,該書在第十八章討論past perfect tense時說到「過去完成式」不同於「現在完成式」,它是可以用在有明確time expression的句子中的。Thomson & Martinet並舉了下列的例子以作解釋:

e.g. I had left the case on the 4:40 train. (p. 175)

單就這例子而論,的確是將「過去完成式」用在一個過去的時間上,但我們先別急於下判斷。我認為值得留意的反而是古德明在解說時並沒有援引這例,他舉了書中的另外一個例子來解答讀者的問題。但正因為這例子,顯示他錯誤理解了「過去完成式」的一些較細微的用法。

現在我們先看其他學者對past perfect tense有甚麼說法,看看是否能從中找到一些蛛絲馬跡。Michael Swan Practical English Usage中提到:

”The past perfect is not used simply to say hat something happened some time ago” (Swan, p. 424)

另外,Lancaster UniversityProfessor Geoffrey Leech 也在其著作An A-Z of English Grammar and Usage中清楚說明下面的例子錯用了過去完成時態,應改用過去式:

e.g. Last week we had enjoyed a visit to London. (Leech et al. p. 437).x

市場上的英文文法書中,Mark Newbrook的著作Exploring English Errors是唯一清楚地說明past perfect tense不能和ago這字走在一起,它只會跟before這類副詞連用。而這說法也回應了SwanLeech的觀點,即past perfect tense不能放在有明確finished time expression(例如last year, 2 months ago, in 1972等等)的句子中。這類句子的動詞都要用past tense

故事當然未完。細心的人就會問:那為什麼A Practical English Grammar裡仍然會有 ”He had last seen her ten years before” 這樣的例子呢?要解釋這點,我們先看另一段網上的資料。網站Englishpage.compast perfect tense有這樣的解說:

Unlike with the Present Perfect, it is possible to use specific time words or phrases with the Past Perfect. Although this is possible, it is usually not necessary.

e.g. She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

Moreover, if the Past Perfect action did occur at a specific time, the Simple Past can be used instead of the Past Perfect when "before" or "after" is used in the sentence. The words "before" and "after" actually tell you what happens first, so the Past Perfect is optional. For this reason, both sentences below are correct.

e.g. She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

e.g. She visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

大家看完後有甚麼發現沒有?我們試比較一下A Practical English GrammarEnglishpage.com所列出的例句便會明白:

例一: He met her in Paris in 1977. He had last seen her ten years before.

例二: She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

見到嗎?每句例句其實都牽涉了二個相關的動作。而past perfect tense的一個最大的特點就是比較一先一後所發生的過去事情。所以在以上二句例句中,雖然四個動作都有其已完成的時間(finished time expressions),但我們仍然可以用past perfect tense來表達那個較先完成的那個動作。大陸語法學家張道真在其《實用英語語法》中就說到past perfect tense經常會用在敘述故事中較早發生的事情上。

語法專家George Davidson在其著作Verbs and Tenses中也清楚說明The past perfect tense is (also) used to refer to actions or events that happened before a stated time in the past. (p. 213) John EastwoodOxford Learner’s Grammar中則解釋了past perfect tense用在副詞before之前的原因。看看下面二句例句:

eg. Rachel joined the company five years ago (= five years before now)

eg. Rachel left the company last year. She’d joined them five years before. (= five years before last year)(英漢版, p. 421

他說「從過去回顧更早的時間,通常要用副詞before。這要比She’d joined them five years ago更常見。」從這二句例句中,我們可以看到二個動作在時間上的比較。另外,Collins Cobuild English Grammar (3/ed) 也指出:

“You can use an adverb such as beforehand or earlier to refer to time that preceded a particular period of time, or an event.”

eg. She had seen him only five hours earlier. (p. 221)

另外,Macmillan English Dictionary的例子:

e.g. A few days earlier, he had assured me that he didn’t want to come. (Macmillan, p. 465)

這些副詞如earlier (than sth)before (sth)都體現了在有明確的finished time expression時,只有在比較二個先後動作的情況下才應用上past perfect tense

National Geographic那一句只有一個動作,沒有比較,所以在有finished time expressionie. 26 years ago)的情況下用上past perfect tense,文法上肯定是錯的(外國人的英文不一定都對)。古德明錯在解答時沒有給讀者一句qualifying statement,便妄然引用Thomson & Martinet的例句來證明自己的說法,不知就裡的學生很容易因此而中招。所以簡言之,在有finished time expressions的情況下(特別是beforeearliertime adverbials),若是有二個已經完成的動作,較先完成的我們可用past perfect tense來表達。但若只有一個完成動作,而完成時間也清楚列出時,那動詞只能用simple past tense