“Took” or “Had Taken”

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Rosemary was famous for being the “bright girl” in the class, and the other kids wondered what had taken her so long.

Is the past perfect tense, “had taken,” used in the sentence above correctly? Or does “had taken” need to be changed to “took”?

Consider:

Rosemary was famous for being the “bright girl” in the class, and the other kids wondered what took her so long.

Below is the context of the sentence.

Extract From the book, “Angela’s Lost Turtle”

Angela had never felt happier or more excited about a birthday gift before. Everywhere she went, she took her turtle with her. She washed and painted her turtle. She took her turtle to the park, to the candy shop, to the library, to the grocery store….  She even took her turtle to school to show her friends and teacher.

Her teacher, Miss Beverly, was very delighted to see Angela’s turtle and taught the class for a whole hour about turtles.

     “Turtles,” she said, “are reptiles….”

     The class gasped in fear, “Reptiles?! Does that mean they bite?”

     “No,” explained the teacher, “not all reptiles are as dangerous as snakes and alligators. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals, which means that their body temperature changes with their surroundings….”

     She explained that reptiles breathe with lungs and have skin covered in scales. Then Miss Beverly asked, “Can anyone give me another example of a reptile?”

     There was a deafening silence for the next thirty seconds or so, and then, suddenly, Rosemary shot her hand up into the air in perfect zeal. Rosemary was famous for being the “bright girl” in the class, and the other kids wondered what had taken her so long.

     “Yes, Rosemary, go ahead,” said the teacher.

     Rosemary stood boldly up and looked at the students all around her. “Chameleons,” she declared splendidly.

     “Thank you, Rosemary,” said the teacher. “Now let’s continue. There are about three hundred species of turtles alive today….”

Simulation

I’ll try to create a similar scenario that puts the example in better focus.

The students sat quietly and waited for Miss Beverely to arrive. Then suddenly, Rosemary jumped out of her seat and started to scream. It was clear that she was bitten by something, and the other kids wondered what had bitten her.

I used “had bitten” because she was obviously bitten before she started to scream even though the two actions (bite and scream) did not happen in the same sentence. In the same way, something delayed Rosemary’s response before she stood up to answer. And that whole action of being delayed was completed and finished before she shot her hands up. Therefore, we can say that two actions happened: “something took her so long” and she shot her hands up into the air.

However, I still have a doubt as the two actions in sequence did not happen in the same sentence.

Consider the following examples:

Rosemary was lost for a few seconds, then she shot her hand up in the air.

Rosemary was thinking about her mom, so she delayed to answer. However, after a few seconds, her mind stopped sailing. Then, she shot her hand up in the air in perfect zeal. The other kids wondered what took her so long.

Consider:

The other kids had been waiting for her to answer, and they wondered what took her so long. (seems correct)

The other kids had been waiting for her to answer, and they wondered what had taken her so long. (seems incorrect).

Rosemary was famous for being the bright girl in the class, and the other kids wondered what had taken her so long.

This may sound correct because there are several other past tense verb in the same sentence, but consider the following variations.

Let’s take out the first part of the sentence.

Consider:

There was a deafening silence for the next thirty seconds or so, and then, suddenly, Rosemary shot her hand up into the air in perfect zeal. The other kids wondered what had taken her so long.

Upon considering the above example, I think “had taken” sounds correct because of the nature of the sentence, and not because it is actually correct.

Consider the following:

There was a deafening silence for the next thirty seconds or so, and then, suddenly, Rosemary shot her hand up into the air in perfect zeal. Rosemary was laughing uncontrollably and the other kids wondered what had gotten into her.

In the above variation, it’s OK to say “had gotten,” because two actions happened and one had to have happened before the other. Something had to have gotten into Rosemary before she started to laugh uncontrollably.

Please share your thoughts.

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Denny Carpen
Denny Carpen
1 month ago

had taken would be my choice.