Sunday, September 25, 2022

MLP had not went

| July 28, 2022 1:00 AM

Your Mrs. Language Person is something of a fuddy duddy. Old-fashioned and fussy may she be, yet who, Dear Readers, defends English as faithfully?

Word nerds may be few and fading, but MLP is certainly not alone in these linguistic lamentations. Let us dwell on the past, shall we?

“The misuse of the word ‘seen’ drives me crazy,” one L.J.E. told your MLP. (Apologies, dear L.J.E., for this belated column.)

“I seen that on TV.”

“I seen there was an apple pie for dessert.”

No, you didn’t. You saw. You noticed, learned, realized, spied or some other verb done and dusted. But when discussing the past tense of a program watched or a sweet treat spotted, if that is all one is trying to convey, then the verb’s simple past form is best:

“I saw it on TV. I saw there was pie.”

When is “seen” — the past perfect or past “pluperfect” form — appropriate? They are both in the past, you may mention. Point taken.

Most soon forget the lessons of those venerable gods and goddesses of yesteryear, our beloved English teachers, and simply become accustomed to hearing or reading each verb form until we use them correctly by habit.

Well, once upon a time, that’s what happened. Sigh.

To put it simply, if I remember dear Mrs. Crawford’s good-natured insistence, the difference between saw and seen is a matter of sequence.

“I saw it on TV” is correct when that’s all one has to report.

“Before I saw ‘Little Women’ at CDA Summer Theatre, I had seen it on TV.”

“See” the difference? The second example refers to two points in time. One occurred in reference to the other.

Need they be so directly related? Not at all. She went to the store after she had gone to the lake this morning. One was completed (the lake) with the past perfect “had gone” before the second event (the store) occurred with the simple past tense “went.”

Notice, MLP did not write, “She had went.” Never!

Gone. Went. Saw.

Had gone. Had seen. If you please, urges reader J.C. Bless, that bemused barrister and fellow language lover.

And with that, you may have seen (present perfect continuous tense, as if one needed more verbiage to overcomplicate things) the end of this column is nigh.

“The past, pluperfect, and future walk into a bar. It was tense.”

• • •

Mrs. Language Person and Sholeh Patrick are decreasingly creative columnists for the Hagadone News Network who increasingly rely on readers for inspiring grammar gripes. Share yours at

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