The Grammarphobia Blog

“Had” tricks

Q: Every time I hear you on WNYC, I think about my grammar-school English teacher (calling it grammar school reveals my age, I think). He had a test that I am sure you are familiar with. Punctuate the following: John where James had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher

A: Whew! It takes some doing to get one’s mind around that hunk of words, but here goes:

John, where James had had “had had,” had had “had.” “Had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

I have to admit that I had (or had had) a bit of help here. Some time ago a listener sent me a similar puzzle, not precisely this one but close.

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