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When explaining an event that happened in the past which one is proper?

(It happened when) it had not been that long since I moved to the US

vs

(It happened when) it had not been that long since I had moved to the US

or should I change the first part to "it has not been" ?

  • I'm confused by "(It happened when)". What do you mean? – Peter Jun 27 '17 at 5:50
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I understand what you are asking, but the entire sentence is awkward. I would correct it to this:

It happened not long after I had moved to the US.

Which says the same thing more concisely. Let's see if we can come up with a sentence that is less easily recast:

It had been 10 days since the last time we had heard from him.
It had been 10 days since the last time we heard from him.

While the first sentence is more technically correct, owing to tense agreement, the second one would still be common. This is because we often leave out words that are understood.

You should not change your sentence to this:

It happened when it has not been that long since I (had) moved to the US.

In this case, the tenses clearly disagree, whether you put the had in or not. Has not been connects the past to the present, while it happened does not. So, you have a point in time in the past (happened), and are attempting to enclose within it (happened when) a period of time that begins at a point in the past and ends in the present (has not been). That's illogical.

  • Thanks a lot! Would it be correct if I say, "It had been not long since I (had) moved to the US."? – Jnn Jun 28 '17 at 16:51
  • @Jnn Close, but not quite: "It had not been long since I had moved to the US." is the correct word order. By extension: "When it happened, it had not been long since I had moved to the US." But I would still pefer a simplification: "When it happened, I had not long since moved to the US." And I would prefer this even more: "When it happened, I had only recently moved to the US." – BobRodes Jul 7 '17 at 6:47

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