English Practice exercises - narrative tenses (2) for proficiency: P6-04G

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The text which follows is the opening of a detective story. It is written from the point of view of the detective. In this extract, the detective sees a man’s face, and struggles to remember where he has seen it before. Change any verbs in bold in the past simple which should be in the past perfect. NOTE: as there are no extended ‘flashbacks’, the language issues associated with this do not arise. Here, it is a matter only of working out what verbs lie within the time of the developing story line (past simple) and which refer to an earlier period (past perfect).



In my line of business, an excellent memory for faces, which I have, is a great asset.

I was sitting in a quiet corner of the lobby of the Hotel Resplendent, that windy October afternoon, when a man with dark, curly hair and a slightly olive skin entered. I knew two things immediately: that I saw this man before, and that I did not know where or in what context. He was impeccably dressed in a dark suit and pale green shirt, a tie with deep green and blue diagonal stripes, and a pair of black brogues. With the possible exception of the tie, all were clearly custom-made. He walked across the lobby towards the lift and I lost sight of him.

Where did I see him before? Before I had a chance to consider this, the client  whom I was awaiting also entered the lobby, and for the next couple of hours I was fully occupied. Later, around five, I retreated to my favourite coffee house, which was just round the corner, for a latte, a cheese and salad sandwich, and a good think. Why could I not place this man? Was it a number of years since the first time I came across him? No, definitely not – this was a recent meeting. So, in the period since I first set eyes on him, he changed his appearance. How?

Did he undergo plastic surgery? I didn’t believe it. Did he wear a beard or a moustache at the time of our first encounter? Again, that didn’t feel right. I would stake my reputation on having seen already, and not long since, the exact same face that I saw three hours ago in the lobby.

That left only one possibility: that he changed his ‘look’ compared to the first time I saw him. ‘Obvious’ you might say, but not to me. You must realise that I am used to dealing with individuals who adopt disguises, for any one of a number of reasons; in fact, I do it myself from time to time. If this was simply a different look, then it had to be a remarkable transformation that took place – otherwise I would have figured out when and where that first encounter occurred.

I ordered another latte and began to sketch from memory  the face in the lobby. As I did so, I felt myself go deeper and deeper into concentration. And then it hit me. The last time I saw the man with the bespoke tailoring was two months previously, at which time he was dressed as and was performing the functions of a public lavatory attendant!

As I realised this, I felt a familiar shiver  - a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I was going to investigate this man, and that was going to take me, my gut feeling told me, into some dark and dangerous places. Because I noticed the man in the lobby for a second reason – three weeks previously, a man using the same Beirut tailor tried to put a bullet through my head.    




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