Another tense in the past (Or: B2 Dutch course #10)

First, a minor thing I forgot to mention from the previous class (Tuesday) which I found amusing/useful. You have a few different ways to talk about the length of time, namely pas for a short length of time and al for a long length of time.

Therefore, you can get some emotion into your sentence just by using one of those words. Ik woon al 5 jaar in Nederland. (I have lived in the Netherlands for 5 years already.) Ik woon pas 5 jaar in Nederland. (I have lived in the Netherlands for just 5 years.)

Yesterday we learned the voltooid verleden tijd: Ik had gewerkt. (the past perfect in English – I had worked). It is pretty simple to the perfectum – the helper verbs are again either hebben or zijn but this time they are in the past. Luckily you only have two forms for each – singular or plural: had/hadden and was/waren. You then use the voltooid deelwoord (gewerkt, gehad, gedanst) without any changes from the perfectum.

First reason to use the voltooid verleden tijd: 

You are already talking about something in the past (using either the perfectum or imperfectum) but you also talk about something even farther in the past (past perfect). This is actually pretty similar to English.

Gisteren LAS ik in de krant dat er eergisteren een ongeluk WAS GEBEURD met twee vrachtwagens. Yesterday (gisteren) I read (las, imperfectum) in the paper that two days ago (eergisteren) an accident had occurred (was gebeurd, voltooid verleden tijd) with two trucks.

Warning: you can also start with the past perfect, as long as the first thing you talk about happened before the more recent thing.

Nadat mijn broer een nieuwe lcd-televisie HAD GEKOCHT, HEB ik er ook zo een GEKOCHT. Ik vond hem zo mooi! After (nadat) my brother had bought (had gekocht, voltooid verlede tijd) a new LCD television, I have also bought (heb … gekocht) one. I found it so nice!

Note, of course, that the Dutch doesn’t translate as cleanly – it sounds a bit forced to use ‘I have bought’ in English for that situation; the simple past is better. But you get the idea.

Second reason to use the voltooid verleden tijd: 

Something didn’t happen in the past but wonder what might have been if it had.

Helaas we hebben de trein gemist. Als we harder hadden gelopenhadden we misschien de trein wel gehaald. Unfortunately we missed the train. If we had walked (hadden gelopen = voltooid veleden tijd) a bit harder, maybe we could have caught (hadden gehaald = same) the train. Again, English differs in what tense sounds best, but you get the idea.

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