Tense question: Using the verb 'to have'

His mother had recently had a birthday party.

Is the underlined sentence correct, can I use it? And if not, how should it be?
When talking about a third person, whom we dont know, what tense should we use? If the example Ive given is not correct, then I`m pretty sure that it should be like this: “His mother has recently had a birthday party.” or “His mother recently had a birthday party.”

I know this will sound easyto most of you, but I find it perplexing.

It is fine, in the following context:

Johnny’s mother was a nice lady, but she was tired. She (his mother) had recently had a birthday party, and the guests had not left her house until 3:00am. Because of the late departures of her fellow revellers, she’d gotten only three hours of sleep.

And so it is that Johnny’s mother showed up late for her appointment with the fishing guide…

I’d say that this is acceptable if used when describing past events, with the goal of explaining a current condition.

I may be way off, though. Alan? Yank?

Johnny’s mother is tired. She recently had a birthday party…

Johnny’s mother was tired. She had recently had a birthday party…

So the “had recently had” is describing a PAST state of being.

Thanks for making that clear, prezbucky!

bear in mind that it might be completely incorrect… but I’ll accept provisional/nominal thanks, anyway!

“His mother recently had a birthday party.” is correct. There is no reason to put a “had” or “has” before “recently”.
Whether we know someone or not doesn’t affect the tense we should use.

If you think something may be way off or completely incorrect, why do you bother to write it?

I figured that I could think myself through a logical answer.

I actually do think that “had/had” is fine for describing a PAST state of being.

I was tired last Thursday: Wednesday had been a tough day.

But “recently had” clearly describes something in the past. Nothing useful is accomplished by putting another “had” before “recently”. (This is not a past “state of being”; this is something that happened in the past.)

“Wednesday was a tough day.” is perfectly adequate.

I have to go now…talk to you later.

You are not breaking any grammatical rules by using that sentence. Whether or not it is an efficient or correct use of sentence structure depends on what idea you are trying to convey. Prezbucky’s example above is a very good illustration of a situation where the expression is not only acceptable, but also a good use of language… some sticklers might object to the ‘gotten’ part though :slight_smile:

…as opposed to “got”? Word.

Hi SkiIuck

First let’s give names to the tenses you’ve asked about, using the verb ‘to have’:

  1. has had = present perfect

  2. had = simple past

  3. had had = past perfect

The simple past tense (2) is used to talk about things that were done (and finished) in the past. In spoken English, you will rarely hear the past perfect (3). The past perfect is used more often in written English. One way to use the past perfect is in a sentence where there are two finished actions, but one happened before the other. The past perfect tells you what happened first:

  • He had just left when they arrived. --> First he left and then they arrived.

In the sentence above, the order of events will change/be misunderstood if you do not use the past perfect:

  • He just left when they arrived. --> First they arrived and then he simply left.

In prezbucky’s example, he began a story by saying the mother was tired (simple past tense). Then he described what happened before that (the things that caused the mother to be tired). In spoken English, prezbucky’s story would probably be told in the simple past tense, but the way prezbucky used the past perfect is common in written English.

There are some other “rules”, too. What I have written above is very basic.

As for the present perfect (1), I’ll come back to that later if no one else wants to take a (further) stab at it. But, I will say this: The present perfect is not used quite as often in North American English as it is in British English.

Why do you think the verb tense might be connected to a third person we don’t know?

‘Gotten’ is absolutely standard and 100% correct in American English. It is the past participle of ‘get’ and is exactly what the British used to use before they decided to make ‘got’ the past participle of ‘get’ (which was some time after they established colonies in North America).