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This was in a test so no other answers are possible. Which one is correct?:

That was the second time I _______ rafting in Antalya.

1) tried
2) had tried
3) have tried
4) am trying

The last 2 answers are obviously wrong so which one is it, tried or had tried? The answer key says it should be "had tried", is that correct? If yes, then why?

Note: the question is not part of a longer passage. It was put in the test just like this, on its own. The answer key claims that since there's the word "was" in the sentence and according to the meaning, the answer should be in the past perfect tense.

There is nothing in the test to indicate that 'trying' was done before anything else, so I decided to go for 'tried'. The verb 'was' doesn't refer to any action done before 'trying'. It refers to a 'time', not an 'action'.

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jun 4 '17 at 16:51

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  • WHat about this, "this is my second time I have left a comment" ? – kitty Jun 4 '17 at 17:27
  • If I was answering this question I would have the same confusion that both answers could possibly work but I would conclude had tried is more likely to be correct because the construction second time would normally imply at least a third time. As a native speaker if my second time was also my final time I would say something like the other time or the last time instead of second time to clarify that I didn't continue past the second time. However, that's not an absolute rule just more common. But since one answer better fits more natural speech I would pick that. – Brillig Jun 10 '17 at 0:05
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In a stack exchange query nearly four years ago, this sort of problem occurred: Tense when saying "This is the first time" you've been somewhere

This is the first time I tried to raft.... That was the second time I had tried to raft.... The "was" puts the time in the past, completed, which is where the past perfect is used. This can be difficult, because "tried rafting" sounds perfectly fine in speech. The "was" matters.

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