Is there a some sort of sequences of tenses in the question: What was the last thing you bought?

And why it is correct? Why not use Perfect: What was the last thing you have(or had) bought?

Is it because of sequences of tenses? I think in the following way - because of someone asks about the completed action, so Perfect would fits better..

2 Answers 2


In "What was the last thing you bought", "last" means "most recent", "last before now".

English uses simple past for a completed sequence. If you used the Perfect rather than Simple, your listener would expect you to talk/ask about what happened after that event.

"What was the last thing you bought?" is a question about the end of a sequence. The focus is on thing bought or something about the buying.

If you said "what was the last thing you had bought", your listener would expect the question to continue: "...when you for sure had your purse", "...after you met Joe", "...without noticing your budget was exhausted", etc.

"I had just finished writing the final routine when my boss barged in", "had you returned from lunch when the fire alarm sounded?".

By using the Perfect, you mark a place in time, but it's only a marker in time, not the real subject. You're actually talking about something else.


Last thing = one thing, no more in the future

You bought = it's done, it won't change in the future.

According to me that's why past simple is used in your example.

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