I have one sentence:

We were late for the theater because ___ .

Possible variants:

  1. she had left the tickets at home
  2. we had gotten lost while driving
  3. he had wanted to watch an action flick

Perhaps it sounds awkward to natie, but why the last two answers are incorrect (according to the resource I've taken this example from)?

  • 2
    Do you have the resource from which you took this example? It would help us explain why they say it's wrong. Especially since you had also mentioned it :D. Mar 28, 2017 at 10:06
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    Meanwhile, number two sounds OK to me. Number three sounds fine grammatically, but it is a bit of a jump in logic to go from "wanting to watch an action flick (so we had an argument about it) so we were late." Mar 28, 2017 at 10:09
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    Also, I would have said, "late for the movie" and "late to the theater" if it's a movie theater. I would use "for the theater" only if it for were a live show. But I know this is just my American English rearing its ugly head. I'm pretty sure other English variants use "for the theater" for movie theaters. Mar 28, 2017 at 10:12
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    They are all equally viable from the point of view of tense. In colloquial speech, the simple past is likely to be used instead of the past perfect. ,,,because she forgot the tickets...because we got lost....because he wanted to finish watching an action flick... The word because does most of the temporal heavy lifting in context: causes precede their consequences, and so we don't need the past perfect to make sense of the statement. By contrast: We were late for the movie. We had gotten lost on the way.
    – TimR
    Mar 28, 2017 at 11:35
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    "Had gotten" is sometimes used, but it's better to simply say "got".
    – Andrew
    Mar 28, 2017 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


According to me, the correct use of tense in the following sentences is - We were late for the theater because we had/got lost while driving. ( Here got lost may mean had lost. Therefore had gotten lost looks awkward here/superfluous here). 2. We were late for the theater because he wanted to watch an action flick.( Past Indefinite is OK here. No need of Past Perfect. Had wanted shows that he had the old desire to see the the action flick but we didn't pay attention.


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