10.24.2008

Had went

I've noticed a development in English (at least in the American version), and it's that people will combine the simple past tense of "go" (went) with "had". I have no idea why this has happened because I remember people just saying "went", as in "I went to his house."

Now I often hear people say, "I had went to his house" when they're telling a story. Why are they making the past tense more complicated than it is? Are they trying to sound fancy? What they're doing is combining the past perfect with the past tense, and if I were to point it out to them, they'd have no idea what I'm talking about.

8 comments:

bonnjill said...

No, they are just grammatically incorrect. In no way will it ever be "had went." That just makes me shudder...

Arnold Zeman said...

It's also happening in the Canadian version of English.
Is it a matter of education, i.e. lack of emphasis on grammar? Is it a matter of socio-economic status? Is it youth lingo?
Glad to find out that I'm not alone in noticing it, but depressed that it's more of a phenomenon than I had realized.

mj said...

I work with some smart people, and I never hear it. I think it's people ignorance of what it really means, that it isn't correct.

There's lots of English that doesn't seem correct that is used by all kinds of people, but this kind of mistake is glaringly incorrect because the verb tenses conflict.

zmjezhd said...

It's been going on a lot longer than you'd think: cf. Ayres The Verbalist (1885), 197 (link). I found an example from the early 19th century in British English (testimony in court records).

mj said...

Thanks--that's interesting and it's good to know that this problem isn't just a modern one.

I like the subtitle of The Verbalist: "A Manual Devoted to Brief Discussions of the Right and Wrong Use of Words and to Some Other Matters of Interest to Those who Would Speak and Write with Propriety"

bellevueheather said...

I think if you dig deeper into the usage, you'll find that the past verb forms are not being combined, as you assert. Non standard usage of irregular verbs is quite common in the midwest of the US, particularly in Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Kansas (though it is not limited to these areas). These forms are learned the way any part of language is learned. Parents and grandparents speak a certain way, kids grow up with it.
I was actually corrected by someone once when I said something like "Nobody has drunk the punch". She told me it should be drank, I told her actually no, and that was the end of that.
Correct or not, each of us has an internal grammar -- we all bristle at the thing that sounds odd. But we don't all learn standard forms.

mj said...

It may be passed down from generation to generation, but if you go with standard English grammar, especially in the books they give English learners, you don't see such verbs together.

Norma said...

It hurts my ears when people say 'had went'. It sounds uneducated.