Anonymous asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 8 months ago

Language: I think the English construction "had had" is very inelegant: "He had had a good breakfast" Do other languages do it better?

8 Answers

  • Pontus
    Lv 7
    8 months ago
    Best Answer

    1. I disagree.

    2. Yes, many languages do it differently.

    (He) had had [noun phrase]:

    French: (Il) avait eu [noun phrase]

    Italian: (Lui) aveva avuto [noun phrase]

    German: (Er) hatte [noun phrase] gehabt

    (the past perfect is rarely used. If context makes it clear, a past tense would be used instead. Something similar is happening in English. Many people are replacing the past perfect in daily speech or informal writing).

    Japanese: The past perfect doesn't exist. No single true word for "have". No tenses (no past perfect like had had). It does have verbal aspect. One is similar to the perfect aspect of English, but it's applied without tense.

    The translation of your example sentence would use the equivalent of eat in the completed aspect. In a main clause, that would be indistinguishable from the English: He had a good breakfast. In a subordinate clause, its meaning would depend on the aspect of the main clause. had had - would be the correct translation depending on the main verb.

    Those are the four foreign languages I speak.

  • John P
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    In settings such as "He had had a good breakfast before a long day walking in the hills" the form "had had" is the only possible form, from a logical point of view. In that sentence you could use "He had eaten a good....." if you wanted to avoid "had had".

  • Tepee
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    In that context just one 'had' would be sufficient.

    • Lv 5
      8 months agoReport

      no, it has a different meaning

  • Anonymous
    8 months ago

    Why do you consider a standard construction as "inelegant"? Confusing or amusing to English learners, maybe, but not "inelegant." You would probably be floored by "I DO do my homework every night."

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  • 8 months ago

    The Past Perfect is unavoidable in some situations where it's important to show that an event or action took place before some other event or action also in the past.


    A, When I arrived at the theatre, the play began.

    B, When I arrived at the theatre, the play had begun.

    In A, the play began AS I arrived.

    In B, the play was ALREADY in progress. It began before I arrived.

    This is an important difference.

    However in the context of 'had had', it may sound inelegant but it's absolutely standard. It's the identical construction as in French, German and Italian (as shown by @Pontus), the only difference being that in those languages, the form of the Past Participle is not the same as the auxiliary verb 'had'.

    In the examples given by @Pontus, they must all be translated into English as 'had had'.

  • 8 months ago

    You could just say… He did have a good breakfast, or He had a good breakfast

  • 8 months ago

    To while John had had had, had had had had, had had had had the teachers approval.

    • Poseidon
      Lv 7
      8 months agoReport

      You are correct Elwin. Thanks for the heads up.

  • 8 months ago

    A contraction makes it better.

    He’d had a good breakfast.

    Or using another word.

    He had eaten a good breakfast.

    That’s the thing about English... and all languages, really... you can make it sound deliberately bad, or use some wordsmithing to make it beautiful.

    He broke his fast with three eggs sunny side up, a rasher of savoury bacon, richly buttered toast, a delightful selection of fresh berries and fine grapes, and topped off with a dark brewed coffee.

    • lowlevel
      Lv 7
      8 months agoReport

      I have that once every week. 40 years old. BP of 120/80 nearly bang on. Nothing on the yearly ECG I get for my pilots medical.

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