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The past perfect is used to communicate an event completed before another event in the past.

But in newspaper I read in some news that past perfect and simple past is being used to communicate the same news. How to determine that news in which writer or anybody wants to communicate first occurred events or not.

Like in my below example it seems that these events occurred before another event. But in Some news Past perfect is used and in some it is not.

How to determine if NEWS is just an Information (Simple Past) or completed action (Past Perfect)?

Also if we want to communicate Completed Action/ Final condition/ Final state of action what should we use Simple past or past perfect?

Because in my examples both sentences gives the same Idea.

E.g. 1

(Before informing to relatives)

a) His Family had kept it to themselves and did not disclose it to any relative. (Completed Action)

b) His Family kept it to themselves and did not disclose it to any relative. (Information or Statative)

E.g. 2 (Before arresting someone for the same offence)

a) In July 2014, police had arrested a school bus cleaner for molesting a three-year-old student. (Completed Action)

b) In July 2014, police arrested a school bus cleaner for molesting a three-year-old student.(Information or Statative)

E.g. 3 (Before calling to someone)

a) He had called him but he did not picked up my phone. (Completed Action)

b) He called him but he did not picked up my phone. (Information or Statative)

E.g 4 (Before bomb blast)

a) Passenger informed to the police that Bomb was kept on train. (Information or Statative)

b) Passenger informed to the police that Bomb had been kept on Train. (Completed Action)

E.g 5 (I called you late because)

a) He came to my desk to ask something. (Information or Statative)

b) He had come to my desk to ask something. (Completed Action)

  • I don't think example 4b means what you think it does. Changing to the present tense - 4a: (a) passenger[s] inform(s) police "there is a bomb on the train"; 4b: (a) passenger[s] inform(s) police "there was a bomb on the train". (Brackets are because it's unclear whether you mean one passenger or some passengers.) – SteveES Apr 3 '17 at 11:17
  • Past Perfect doesn't always have to refer to a completed action in the past before another event. I can say that when the UFOs landed I had been waiting all my life -- I was still waiting at the time when they landed. It's also possible that I didn't see them and I continued waiting. What's important is that the activity occurred some time before. Maybe you're distinguishing from the Past Perfect Continuous, which is sometimes a better way to describe a continuing action, but not always. Some verbs, for example, are used as 'state verbs' and are unlikely to have the Continuous aspect. – Epanoui Apr 28 '17 at 14:11
  • Three questions for better understanding of your question: 1) Are the parenthesized expressions in your examples meant as the common beginning of the two alternatives (making 5a to "I called you late because he came to my desk to ask something." and 5b to "I called you late because he had come to my desk to ask something.)? Or are they just background information not belonging to the sample sentences? 2) Maybe you have a real example from a newspaper like mentioned by you? That would make it easier to answer. 3) May I ask what is your native language? It could also be helpful for the answer. – Min-Soo Pipefeet Nov 21 '17 at 21:22
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One line answer: read all content, don't judge it by reading a sentence or two.


The confusion occurs between whether it is past or distant past. And, it depends on how old the event is. Not talking about the headlines, but in most of news' body, I find no difficulty in identifying the age of that event.

Simply put, if it is distant past, they may use had.

The murder had been planned in February.

Problem is that even for yesterday, had is used but then you need to read more in that news to understand the age of the event.

She had met him yesterday, but he did not reveal any threat

If it is recent past, they may avoid using 'had'. But again, as I said earlier, read the entire piece of news to have accurate information on time.

-1

The past perfect is used to communicate an event completed before another event in the past.

Not always.

Perfect tenses mean the action being discussed is completed, or that we don't need to worry about it/care about it/deal with it anymore or at the current moment, or that it's "off the table", or not connected to what we are dealing with now, or that it has to be "restarted" in some sense.

The need for this arises when talking about two past events a lot, but sometimes a standalone past event can be expressed with a perfect tense to indicate or emphasize the above.

A lot of this depends on how the speaker/writer sees an event and/or what the speaker is trying to accomplish. So there is no hard and fast rule. It all depends on how the speaker sees things.

I'll walk through your examples to illustrate with possible reasons why the specific tense could have been chosen. These aren't the only possible reasons, just examples.

a) His Family had kept it to themselves and did not disclose it to any relative. (Whatever it is, it's not expected to happen again. "It" is done.)

b) His Family kept it to themselves and did not disclose it to any relative. ("It" might come up again.)

a) In July 2014, police had arrested a school bus cleaner for molesting a three-year-old student. (Nothing interesting to the speaker has happened since 2014.)

b) In July 2014, police arrested a school bus cleaner for molesting a three-year-old student. (This could be one major incident of others in the past.)

a) He had called him but he did not pick up my phone. (Talking about something a while back. Basically, he had called him, then something else happened.)

b) He called him but he did not pick up my phone. (Recent.)

a) Passenger informed to the police that Bomb was kept on train. (We're still looking for the bomb.)

b) Passenger informed to the police that Bomb had been kept on Train. (Bomb is no longer a danger or the train doesn't exist anymore.)

  • Especially for the Present Perfect, your following statement is diametrically opposed to all Grammar explanations: "Perfect tenses mean ... that we don't need to worry about it/care about it/deal with it anymore or at the current moment, or that it's ... not connected to what we are dealing with now..." - At least in British English "I've lost my key" is something I have to deal with at the current moment but not "I lost my key". – Min-Soo Pipefeet Nov 22 '17 at 8:21
  • "Completed" is an insufficient word now that I think about it. Trying really to refine my own understanding of this so I appreciate the feedback. With your example, what you are really dealing with at the current moment is finding your key., or "restarting" having it. Your lost key is a completed moment when you say "I have lost my key" (therefore you are trying to find it) but when you say "I lost my key" it's merely referring to something in the past (i.e. doesn't necessarily imply you're trying to find it). – LawrenceC Nov 22 '17 at 13:27

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