Jeopardy and the Past Perfect

I don’t know if Alex and the Jeopardy judges credited the contestant afterwards or not, but on a recent program a player who answered a clue with the term past perfect was ruled incorrect.The answer they were looking for was pluperfect.

Only a few weeks earlier I’d puzzled an English teacher by using the term pluperfect for the tense she was accustomed to call the past perfect.

Both terms refer to the same verb tense. Unless there was something about the way the Jeopardy clue was worded, the contestant should have received credit for his answer.

The past perfect
In English, the past perfect is formed with the helping verb had and the past participle of the verb: had walked, had gone, had seen. It describes an action that took place earlier than another action in the past. For example,

I had already finished my homework when the telephone rang.

Both actions being described happened in the past, but the action of finishing the homework preceded the ringing of the telephone.

Here’s an article I wrote about the pluperfect after hearing a judge on The Good Wife rule against Cary for using it:

Let’s Hear a Little Respect for the Pluperfect

One Response

  1. Good to know that someone else caught the error in a recent airing of Jeopardy!. Alex Trebek deemed the contestant’s response “past perfect” incorrect, stating that the correct answer was “pluperfect.” In fact, in the English language at least, they mean exactly the same thing. While I sympathize with the young man who missspelled a correct Final Jeopardy answer, I believe that calling a correct response “incorrect” is even more egregious.

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