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Here is an example, "Molly had left at 10 pm". The temporal references will be event time < reference time < speech time, right? But why?

Also, for "The sun has set", why should it be event time < speech time = reference time?

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    I’m not sure what you mean here – how do you mean ‘why’? The event is the actual leaving/sunset, the reference time is the time that the speaker is using as the imagined or explicit reference point for the utterance (e.g., ‘the day I went home’ in the first or ‘now that we might go out’ in the second), and speech time is the point in time when the utterance is spoken. I’m not sure how there can be any reason that these three points in time are different (or identical), except that they are. It’s sort of like asking why one o’clock is earlier than two o’clock… that’s just how time works. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 21 at 11:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet iirc there are languages with a prospective aspect, analogous to the perfect, but for events ahead of the reference point (although distinguishing this set of forms from a future tense is not always easy) – Tristan Jan 21 at 16:01
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thank you for your detailed answer! Now i get clear about it! :) – ronghe Jan 21 at 16:44

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