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I was reading a short story named "The Pleasant Surprise" by Barry King ; the first three sentences read

"I had got the money by work done at home, out of office hours. It came to four pounds altogether. At first I thought I would use it to pay back part of our debt to Eliza's mother."

My question is, is the past perfect really necessary here? If the writer hadn't used the past perfect where he did, would it make a difference meaning wise? And I say this because the events are conveyed chronologically here.

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    It's a literary device: the writer employs the past perfect to place the reader more compellingly at the past moment when the speaker is thinking about how to use his money by giving that moment a 'backstory'. – StoneyB Sep 6 '16 at 19:00
  • What difference would it make meaning wise if the sentence read "I had got the money by work done at home...." @StoneyB – lekon chekon Sep 6 '16 at 19:04
  • @StoneyB wouldn't its meaning pretty much remain the same even if the past perfect was taken out of there? – lekon chekon Sep 6 '16 at 19:08
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    I had crawled on my belly across the desert. The pool of water at the oasis looked like heaven. What difference would it make if we changed the first sentence to simple past, "I crawled"? Where is the narrator, or the center of consciousness, located temporally|spatially in each instance? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 6 '16 at 19:08
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    @lekon chekon If your intention is to establish no more than a bare chronology, then the past perfect is not needed, because readers and listeners will naturally assume that the order of the sentences reflects the chronological order of the events. But what storyteller is interested in establishing merely a bare chronology? You do quote from a short story, after all. In my little example in the comment above, the past perfect explicitly establishes a psychological context for the perception that the pool of water at the oasis looked like heaven. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 6 '16 at 22:31
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The difference might be fairly slight in this case, but in general a perfect tense expresses an action that occurs before some other point (i.e. past perfect occurs somewhere before a point in the past, present perfect occurs somewhere before the present and the future perfect occurs before some point in the future). It also implies that event has some relevance to the action at that later point.

I had got the money by work done at home, out of office hours. It came to four pounds altogether

This version puts the receiving the money further in the past, specifically before the story began.

I got the money by work done at home, out of office hours. It came to four pounds altogether

This version has the receiving the money just before the later actions; it's becomes more of a direct sequence in this case; the perfect implies some relevance between the receiving and the money coming to 4 pounds.

For these sentences, the difference isn't that significant.

  • Does the downvoter care to comment what was wrong/incomplete with the answer? – eques Sep 7 '16 at 13:45

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