No-one would use " They had had to retake the exam," in written or spoken English.

AlanC1Kwiziq community member

No-one would use " They had had to retake the exam," in written or spoken English.

One would possibly say "They'd had to retake the exam", but the simplest form "They had to retake the exam", is the commonest usage.
Asked 3 years ago
GruffKwiziq team member
Hi Alan We do use the pluperfect form in English when referring to events further back in time than a time in the past already referred to (usually when relating a story, verbally or in writing). We try to keep the questions short and so that extra context may not be apparent here so I understand why you'd suggest "they had to" but it isn't equivalent. The example would make more sense in a wider context, and so it does feel contrived because that's missing. E.g. consider: "It was revealed that they had had to retake the exam." This has a very different nuance to: "It was revealed that they had to retake the exam." This example is also complicated slightly by the fact the verb is "have to" and so you have the auxiliary "had" (needed to form the pluperfect) along with the past of "have to" which can get a little clunky.
AlanC1Kwiziq community member
I understand what you say but whilst the use of " had had" may be grammatically correct it just isn't said. Consider; "They had to retake the exam because they needed a pass to attend university", compared with "They had had to retake the exam because they needed a pass to attend university". There is perhaps a slight difference in meaning in that the latter suggests some compulsion but the sense is the same and the former is more elegant which is why everyone I have asked would use it.
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Alan ! I agree that you will more commonly use "I'd had" (which is simply the contracted form of had had) or even simply "I had", though the second one is losing the anteriority contained in the use of the Pluperfect = I'd had took place before I had :) I've now updated the example to "I'd had" :) Merci et à bientôt !
BeverleyB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
I would use it. For example "I had had to retake the exam twice before I could apply for the course. Or "I had already had to retake the driving test twice before I bought my car".
AnnieA2Kwiziq community member
This site could really be improved of the examples were reworked to make sense in both British and American English. Americans rarely use the pluperfect, and often use a time marker like "before" to avoid having to use it. Many of us don't contract "had had" with " 'd had" since the only time we use that tense in the first place is for emphasis. The second examples you gave are things that would get used in AmE, whereas the examples in the lesson are so odd as to be barely comprehensible.
BeverleyB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

The lesson is not odd.  I am English.  Before my retirement I was a teacher and taught English grammar for many years.  The pluperfect may not be used often, in English, but it is grammatically correct, a valid tense (as in French) and is good English.  American English is a different language.  It would be impossible for the site to provide for the differences between American and English English.

As Aurelie said, in spoken English it would have been "I'd had...." with the apostrophe replacing the "ha" in had, but it still means "I had had....."

SherryC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

It's true that there are differences between American English and British English, but I don't think this is one of them. I'm a native speaker of American English and the pluperfect in that language feels perfectly natural to me, both in speech and on the page. Besides if it's used in French, we want to learn it, don't we?

DanC1Kwiziq community member

Today when reading Gruff's response to Alan I just had to respond but I had to reread the material. Yesterday I had not yet read it but I had had to read something else before then.

Now I'm convinced I may never have to use this verb tense again.

:)

DanC1Kwiziq community member

Oh! I just now remembered that yesterday I had to take an exam. Before I could take the exam I had had to read something just as difficult. Now I'm sure it wouldn't have mattered if I were American nor British, I would have had had to do the same.

Yayah!!

There is a Big Bang Theory episode where they get tripped up over a time traveller being future past plu imperfect or something like this...

No-one would use " They had had to retake the exam," in written or spoken English.

One would possibly say "They'd had to retake the exam", but the simplest form "They had to retake the exam", is the commonest usage.

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