Writing for Business

Apr 1 2010   2:46PM GMT

Had had, that that, is is — are doubled words okay?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Frustrated by shoddy products and bad service, she tweeted that she _____ enough and would never buy from that company again.
a. had had
b. had

Answer: a.

Although Word finds it hard to accept, there are constructions where doubled words are appropriate and this is one. Word will just have to get over it.

For Grammar Girl, Bonnie Trenga explains the use of doubled words in English writing:

“Another double you might encounter is “had had,” and Frank from New York would like to know if it’s a correct phrase. It is correct, though it too might seem a bit awkward. To understand “had had,” we need to take a look at the present perfect and past perfect tenses. Take this sentence: “I have had too many chocolates today.” That sentence is in the present perfect tense. You use that tense when you’re talking about a past action that is continuing into the present. This sentence means that I started eating chocolates in the past but the chocolate eating is continuing up to the present. Present perfect tense uses “has” and “have” plus the past participle, as in “have had” and “has gone.”

Now let’s put the chocolate sentence in the past tense. To do so, we’ll use past perfect tense, which uses “had” plus the past participle, as in “had had” and “had gone.” So in the sentence “I had had too many chocolates, so I was too full to eat dinner yesterday,” two things happened in the past. First was eating chocolates; second was trying to eat dinner.

When you have two past-tense occurrences, you use past perfect to express the action that came first. If you are using the verb to have in past perfect, you need to use two hads.

Follow us on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

 Comment on this Post

There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Share this item with your network: