I wanted to ask that what is the difference between the following sentences:

"I didn't sing the song."
"I had not sung the song."

  • 1
    You would probably find our sister site English Language Learners more helpful for this type of question.
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:23
  • 1
    The first says that at some point in the past when the opportunity to sing arose you chose not to sing- it's about your choices at the point of singing. The second is about what happened in your life up to that point of opportunity. Prior to that point you never sang [had never sung] the song before. The sentence may imply that you did sing at that point. But doesn't require it: "When they asked me if I had ever sung the song before, I told them I had not sung it, and never will."
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:47
  • Possible duplicate of When is the past perfect exactly needed? Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


Interesting question, the meanings are very similar, for the difference is context.

I didn't sing the song - This is a sentence that can stand alone, in response to a question or as a statement of fact.

I had not sung the song - This phrasing would typically be used in context of another event, or as part of an explanation to a series of events. On it's own this sentence would seem strange.

i.e. "Until I knew the tune, I had not sung the song"


They both grammatical

The difference is

I didn't sing the song

Is simple past tense and

I hadn't sung the song

Is past perfect tense

We use past simple when the action started in the past and completed in the past. Past perfect is also used for a completed action in the past but the action was not interupted by any action before another action.

For example : I had eaten some food before I went to bed last night.

Had eaten.. was completed before went to bed and it was not interupted by any action


The second sentence is in pluperfect tense: it speaks of an event in relation to some later event, which is also in the speaker's past.

  • We expected Harry to sing “Six String Orchestra”, but at intermission he still had not sung it. (Maybe he sang it later.)

The first form does not imply such a reference point.

  • I went to Harry's concert and was disappointed that he did not sing my favorite song.

This also refers to a time, but to a range of time as a whole rather than before a specific point.

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