I know that in general we use Past Perfect to say that one action happened before another past action or moment in the past. Past Simple is used, for instance, for succession of past actions. Nevertheless we could use past simple with adverbs such as "before", "after", or "when" to show this successsion.

Today I've faced with one interesting moment. As far as I understood we should use Past Perfect with some additional information. I mean for example the following two sentences:

  1. "I had made decision to do this exercise before she did it".
  2. "I made decision to do this exercise before she did it".

Since we use Past Perfect something has changed in our attitude. e.g.: "I had made decision to do this exercise before she did it. I will practice another one" (completed additional meaning). And as for second statement it doesn't matter whether she had already done it or not, I'll do it anyway.

Am I right?

  • As an aside, decision is a countable noun, so it should be "I (had) made the decision".
    – stangdon
    Mar 10, 2017 at 15:46
  • I'll take it into consideration. And what about the question? Do I understand it clear? Mar 11, 2017 at 23:18
  • 1
    @AnthonyVoronkov It don't know if I get you right. My feeling is that (1) may mean that "I" had made the decision to do the exercise before she did it, and can act on his decision (and do the exercise) or not do it. In (2) it seems that the decision will be followed anyway.
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12, 2017 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


Both of your examples are correct and mean the same thing. Your first one is periphrastic and "more formal English", whereas the second one is more succinct and the way it is usually spoken in English. I know your grammar books say that you should use the past perfect for the clause that comes first in time such as:

"My teacher had handed out the test before I arrived."

Despite this rule, most native English speakers just say:

"My teacher handed out the test before I arrived."

The reason for this is that the preposition "before" already tells us which event came first; therefore, the "had" is periphrastic or superfluous in the past perfect; however, it is absolutely grammatically correct. However, when a native speaker in speech wants to emphasize that one event occurred first, he always uses the past perfect:

"Can you believe that the tests had already been handed out before I got to class?

"The teacher had already handed out the tests before I even arrived!"


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