1

I received only today the records you sent nearly a year ago.

It was not until November that I received the records which had been sent nearly a year earlier, in January.

Why in the second sentence past perfect seems obligatory. It is obvious that a year earlier is linked to until november and that is before november. Is it because until november draws the event "really" in the past where as received only today draws the event "not completly in the past". I don't know if my question is clear enough to be understood

2

I don't think the past perfect is obligatory in the second sentence, although it certainly reads better with the past perfect, rather than with "which were sent".

The main reason for using the past perfect is that it emphasizes that an event took place in the past before another event in the past. In the first sentence, the sequence of events is like this:

April 2016: the records are sent...April 29th, 2017: you receive the records and say the sentence.

In the second sentence, the sequence of events is like this:

January: the records are sent...November: the records are received...Today: you talk about what happened in November.

The use of the past perfect is to emphasize that as of November, the records had already been sent almost a year earlier.

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