Would it be proper to use Past Perfect thus:

X and Y have announced the creation of a joint venture titled Z. The two firms had stated their intent to form the JV back in 2012.

The first sentence contains the past reference, then comes the next, with Past Perfect to stress that their statement was before the event described in the first sentence. Is this O.K? Or should Simple Past be used (below)?

The two firms stated their intent to form the JV back in 2012.

P.S. Sorry. The first sentence contains present reference, as StoneyB pointed out.

3 Answers 3


As it stands, this use is only marginally acceptable.

As explained here, a perfect is frequently used to shift from one Reference Time (RT) to another. Since this passage opens with a present perfect, its initial RT is the present, and it would be proper to shift to an earlier reference time:

X and Y havePRESENT announced the creation of a joint venture titled Z. The announcement wasPAST made in a press release yesterday, and share prices of both firms rose by about 5% in the course of the day.

A past perfect must be related to a past RT. If your past perfect second sentence, The two firms had stated ..., followed my second sentence it would be proper, because my sentence would have established a new RT at yesterday. But without some such timeshift the past perfect is not strictly proper, because RT is still the present, and there is no identifiable past RT to which the perfect relates.

You can get away with your past perfect, because readers will figure out what you mean, but it serves no useful purpose and violates FumbleFingers’ Perfect Truism, “Don't use Past Perfect unless you really have to.” You would do better to take advantage of the permitted timeshift, cast your sentence in the simple past, and proceed from there.

X and Y have announced the creation of a joint venture titled Z. The two firms stated their intent to form the JV back in 2012, but negotiations languished due to the uncertain regulatory situation, and it was only last week that the Department of Justice gave the venture their blessing. The market responded to the news immediately, lifting both firms' stock prices by about 5%.

  • The past perfect truism is so true. It's a rarely needed tense. This is definitely a case in which one should avoid mixing the present and past (perfect) tenses. Dec 1, 2013 at 19:05

I don't think it's wrong, I can hear myself saying it that way, and there is no ambiguity. I'm not sure if it's formally acceptable though.

It's understood that it's pointing to the first sentence.

I think it's OK because it could be written like this:

After they'd [the two firms/X and Z had] stated their intent to form the JV back in 2012, X and Y [they] announced the creation of a joint venture titled Z.

To me, the simple past is wrong here. I say that because I believe that your intention is to indicate that this announcement was followed by another event.

If that is your intention, then use past perfect. If not, then simple past is fine.

If it bothers you (or your reader(s)), then just flip the sentences as I've done above.

  • 1
    To help OP a little bit more, the past perfect is used in this case to indicate that the event ("stating their intent") happened before the event said in the past tense ("the announcement"). Actually, I would say that you have to use the past perfect tense to be correct. I recommend reading englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfect.html. Dec 1, 2013 at 17:54
  • @DamkerngT. that's what I intended to say. Perhaps I should have stated that the other way around; that is, I say that because I believe your intention is to indicate that the creation of the joint venture occurred after their announcement. Is that more clear? Dec 1, 2013 at 18:01
  • Hmm, I just read @StonyeyB's answer and realize that I misread the first part of the sentence entirely. I read it as a simple past tense, overlooking that "have". (Which is why my comment above said 'in the past tense ("the announcement")'. Dec 1, 2013 at 18:18

It is okay either way. Even you combine the sentences into a main and relative clause, then the past perfect has to be used:

Prior to {having announced | announcing} the JV, the companies declared the intent.

If the declaration of intent long preceded the announcement of the deed, then there is a strong preference for the perfect:

Years before they announced the JV, the companies had already declared the event.

Basically, although the need for the past perfect is usually explained as being connected to a past event which precedes another past event, the real rule is more complicated. Actually, the past-past event must be complete in some sense and not a part of the past event.

Before I did my homework, I checked my favorite websites.

I started my homework right when I got home, since I had already checked my favorite websites on the go.

In the first sentence we have a simple sequential relationship between two past actions: did this then did that. One is more in the past than the other, but grammatically it is all just one past.

In the second sentence, one action is already considered done with respect to the past. We can dispense with "had" in this sentence, but doing so will degrade the quality of the writing, giving it an unsophisticated air of colloquial english. Perfects are not always strictly mandatory, but they improve the sentence structure by clarifying the temporal relationships among clauses.

In your example, I would go with the perfect if I were writing an article for publication or giving a presentation. In a casual conversation in which I am not minding the quality of my speech so much, I might drop it in favor of the simple past, except in cases where it is glaringly ungrammatical, like:

Standing in that city square, I suddenly had a feeling as if I {was *|were *|have been*|had been} there before.

[In a moment in the past, at a particular place, I felt that in an earlier momen, I had been to that place.]

The past perfect must be used here because "I had a feeling" takes place in the square, and having been in the square is a perfect past relative to that past. Contrast that with:

Standing on top of that tall ridge, I suddenly had a feeling as if I {was ?|were|have been*|had been*} a bird.

[In a moment in the past, I felt that I am a bird (in that same moment, not in a past moment).]

(Was is marked as questionable because the preferred form for "to be" in present tense subjunctives is "were": "If I were rich". In casual speech, it is common to just use "was": "If I was rich".)

  • While your understanding of the underlying grammar is good, I just have a few suggestions (from an American POV); I'd discourage anyone--native speakers too--from using having announced; It's just to awkward. I'd also suggest that in the 2nd clause, you use the past perfect and their with intent. I think all but the last two should use past perfect (and probably had got/had gotten in #4). In the penultimate, you have a choice between subjunctive and past perfect. But present perfect is only appropriate with have feelings and been here. The last one should really be subjunctive. Dec 2, 2013 at 3:43
  • Context dictates subjunctive mood versus indicative past perfect. But using was instead of were isn't that common, at least not when it's supposed to be. There are cases where the subjunctive wouldn't apply to the if clause. I shift in to the subjunctive without thinking. I never have to ponder which mood I mean to express. Dec 2, 2013 at 3:47

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