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What is the difference in meaning between these three sentences?

  1. Aren't they the ones who had come over for lunch?
  2. Aren't they the ones who came over for lunch?
  3. Aren't they the ones who used to come over for lunch?

Last one sounds like a habitual and reoccurring action but what do the first and second one mean?

  • Please fix your punctuation, and please tell us exactly what you do not understand. – Lambie Jun 18 '17 at 15:26
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1 = Had Come Talks about an Action ( in this sentence "come") which has happened before another thing in the past.

Example for Had come : Imagine a situation in which 2 things have happened and we're talking about them :

1 = I did my homework ( at 9 PM)

2 = I watched TV ( at 10 PM)

5 Hours later i want to report these things to my Mother :

Me :Mom, I watched TV at 10 !

Mother : what about your homework ?

Me : I had done my homework before i watched TV.

2= came Talks about an Action which happened in the past and IS NOW FINISHED. and we're not talking about any other action.

3 = used to come is a different Grammar which talks about an activity that you regularly did in the past and no longer do (it) now.

Example : I used to smoke ( Means : In the past , smoking was a habit of mine and it no longer is)

The Main Source of the answer is Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use(Third edition)

Good luck.

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The first one with the past perfect describes an action that took place earlier than another action in the past. Therefore, we would normally use it to refer to a single incident. If we wanted to refer to something that was recurrent prior to a reference time in the past, we'd use the past perfect continuous.

Is he the doctor who had been treating your bad knee before you moved to Atlanta from New York?

The simple past can be used to refer to individual incidents or recurrent/habitual events. Absent context, we cannot know which it is.

Are they the ones who came over for lunch that day when I was visiting?

Are they the ones who came over for lunch every week after your committee meeting?

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  • But of course most native USAian speakers would use the simple past in "Is he the doctor who was treating your bad knee before you moved to Atlanta from New York?" The past perfect is going the way of the Great Auk, like it or not, a victim of the Great Internet Leveling. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jun 18 '17 at 18:38
  • There has to be some good reason to be referring to the past event in relation to another past. Is that the same course you were telling me about, the one you had hoped to get into? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 18 '17 at 18:48
  • Of course the past perfect would add clarity to that sentence, but you would almost always hear the sentence spoken as "Is that the same course you were telling me about, the one you hoped to get into?" The Great Auk was a useful bird, too, majestic and colorful. Betamax was a superior format to VHS. &c. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jun 18 '17 at 18:52

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