What is the best sentence

I had forgotten for a long time that I ordered this book when yesterday I found it in my letter box.

I forgot for a long time that I had ordered this book when yesterday I found it in my letter box.

I think first one is better but as ordered is past simple does it mean that first I ordered the book then I forgot

  • 2
    Much better than either of these would be I had long forgotten that I ordered this book... But of your two suggestions I find the second particularly "awkward" (it's probably "ungrammatical" too, because of the confusion of tenses). You don't need to repeat the Past Perfect with ...that I had ordered this book because the chronological sequence is contextually obvious anyway, and wherever possible you should avoid getting trapped into repeated use of Past Perfect, which is only ever going to come across as clumsy. Dec 15, 2016 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


Using Past perfect with the verb Forget would, I believe, sound better.

There are three different time dimensions in your sentence viz.

  1. When you ordered the book.
  2. When you found it in the mailbox.
  3. Present i.e. when you are narrating this story.

The activity that is affiliated to these time frames and which, hence, should describe the tense to be used is the verb Forget.

Narrating the story in the Present, you give a time reference of a Past event i.e. finding that book in the mailbox, and Earlier to this point of time, you say, that you ordered the book. What happened in the amidst was forgetting that you ordered the book.

Therefore, as per my understanding, it should be:

I had forgotten,

  1. that I ordered the book
  2. until I found it in my mailbox.

The first one is indeed better, but it's a bit unnatural-sounding.

Better still would be "I ordered this book so long ago that it was a surprise when I found it in my mailbox yesterday". The forgetting is implied by the feeling of surprise.

Or: "I forgot that I ordered this book, so it was a surprise when it showed up in my mailbox yesterday". In this case, the order being placed a long time ago is implied by the forgetting.

Often sentences are more interesting when readers have to go beyond the information given to completely understand them. Of course, if not enough information is given, the sentences are just bewildering!

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