Trainer grammar query

Hi guys

This is an unsual request but a very strange tense problem.

My student wanted to say:

  1. Am I to understand you hadn?t been following the handball tournament?

I gave him the alternative:

  1. Am I to understand you didn?t follow the handball tournament?

But maybe as an anti Saxon thing he asked what if he did not want to use do. I think the first sentence is fine.

But as an alternative

  1. Am I to understand you weren?t following the handball tournament? to me sounds wrong.

But I could not say if this is just my British tense quirkiness or my over worked trainer tenseness. :wink: :idea:

Is that last example (3) ok in American English?

Hi Stew,

Your sentence (I mean the one you were given):

strikes me as all right if there is a hint there is another time understood like before you came in the room.


I agree that, “Am I to understand that you hadn’t been following the handball tournament?” is perfectly grammatical English. It’s the use of the past perfect continuous tense in relation to an event that would have happened after you’d been watching the handball tournament.

Your other alternative sentences don’t convey the same time relationship.

However, some ESL students overdo the past perfect and past perfect continuous once they’ve learned them, and they use them in situations where they should use the simple past or the present perfect. Not being privy to the whole conversation, I can’t judge whether this student was using the tense appropriately. By itself, though, the sentence is grammatical.