Verb tenses

Trump’s bonehead mistake about the New York Times article:

Oh Donnie Donnie Donnie. That’s not what it said. You changed one crucial letter, and it changes everything.

Here’s what the Times article actually said:

The concession was clearly designed to put an end to an extended chill in the relationship between China and the United States. Mr. Xi, stung by Mr. Trump’s unorthodox telephone call with the president of Taiwan in December and his subsequent assertion that the United States might no longer abide by the One China policy, had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14, the week after he was elected.

HAD not spoken. The pluperfect. That’s the verb tense you use when you’re talking about more than one past event, and you need to distinguish the earlier from the later. It’s a sophisticated concept, yes, but most native speakers manage to pick it up. That’s what’s going on in that final sentence – Mr Xi HAD not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14…until yesterday’s conversation, which is the entire subject of the article. Dense Donnie somehow managed to interpret that as the Times saying, in an article about his conversation with Xi, that they had no conversation.

And he has the nuclear codes.

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