Usage and Grammar

Q. Is it necessary to continue repeating the auxiliary had after its first instantiation when writing a complex sentence with some of the verbs in the pluperfect: “She had taken many rides in the train and [had] seen many sights, sights that [had] awakened her curiosity, but what [had] most intrigued her . . .”? If not, it seems the reader would have an ambiguous idea about where the event is situated in time.

A. This is a thorny issue, especially for fiction writers. Mignon Fogarty wrote a good post about it at Grammar Girl. The idea is to mix it up a little instead of repeating had a million times. Doing it gracefully and avoiding ambiguity requires some skill, but when it’s done well, readers get the idea.