6

I'm pretty confused here as to why [saw] is preferred in the sentences below.

When I was in Tokyo, I saw the movie three times.

When I was in Tokyo, I had seen the movie three times.

I'm not sure but my understanding is, saw is preferred because "when I was in Tokyo" refers to a period of time where the attempts of seeing the movie three times occurred, and had seen would indicate that the actions happened before I was in Tokyo.

  • 7
    You should always prefer simple past over past perfect unless it's important to clarify that you're referring to something that happened before the primary time-frame of your narrative. In your specific context, that probably doesn't apply anyway - but if it did, you'd express it by saying Before I went to Tokyo I had seen the movie three times. And even there, many people would use simple past because before already defines the sequence of events; it's unnecessary to use the more complex tense to convey something that's already obvious. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 19 '17 at 14:19
  • 1
    Hi FumbleFingers, thank you so much for the perfect and not past-perfect answer! :p I think I get it now perfectly! Made my day! – chipmonkey Jun 19 '17 at 14:21
  • Welcome to ELL @chipmonkey. It's a good question. But in future, try using **bold** (bold) or *italic* (italic) for emphasis; using [bracket] might be confusing. Also, you don't have to thank everyone helping you; we love to help and we know you appreciate it. :) – user178049 Jun 19 '17 at 14:52
  • Alright I'll try them next time. This is my first question I have ever asked online. So glad to know that there're lots of nice n willing-to-help people out there! – chipmonkey Jun 19 '17 at 14:57
  • 2
    I like the first sentence, When I was in Tokyo, I saw the movie three times. – kitty Jun 19 '17 at 15:03
6

When I was in Tokyo, I saw the movie three times.

"was" simple past and "saw" simple past, puts both actions at the same time

When I was in Tokyo, I had seen the movie three times.

"was" simple past and "had seen" past perfect, possibly puts the movies before Tokyo,
to remove ambiguity

By the time I was in Tokyo, I had seen the movie three times.

then there is also

When I had been in Tokyo, I had seen the movie three times.

"had been" past perfect and "had seen" past perfect, possibly puts both actions at the same time

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    "When I was in Tokyo, I had seen the movie three times." sounds really awkward to my ear. – SovereignSun Jun 19 '17 at 14:19
  • 4
    @SovereignSun I agree it sounds awkward, but it is grammatically correct and even understandable, but possibly ambiguous, syntactically correct but semantically questionable. – Peter Jun 19 '17 at 15:14
  • 1
    I think it should imply a "before what". Like in, "When I was in Tokyo, I had seen (saw) the movie three times before I ran out of tickets." – SovereignSun Jun 19 '17 at 15:29
  • 2
    @SovereignSun “When [=at the time] I was in Tokyo, I had [already, previously] seen the movie three times” is perfectly logical and makes sense to me. It would probably be more natural to use a more punctual verb than be (“When I went to Tokyo, I'd seen the movie three times”), but that's all. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 19 '17 at 15:52
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet So, without [already, previously] "had seen" doesn't focus on the speaker's experience in the past before he was in Tokyo and it would sound like rather (weirdly) emphasizing that the action took place before staying in Tokyo? I want "had seen" to mean "had ever seen" in the sentense. – chipmonkey Jun 21 '17 at 23:46
5

Past Perfect is mostly used to speak about an event in the past that happened before another event in the past.

We use Past Perfect for something that started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past.

  • When George died he and Anne had been married for nearly fifty years.

We use Past Perfect when we are reporting our experience and including up to the (then) present.

  • My eighteenth birthday was the worst day I had ever had.

We use Past Perfect for something that happened in the past but is important at the time of reporting

  • Teresa wasn’t at home. She had gone shopping.

In your sentence if both the events happened at the same time in the past, then the Past Simple is used:

  • When I was in Tokyo, I saw the movie three times.

While you were in Tokyo you saw the movie three times.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.