They say had is only when an action was completed (finished or "perfected") at some point in the past before something else happened.

But i recently heard a sentence from Fault in Our Stars:

Hazel says I didn't believe a word. But that's okay.

I knew this was the right thing to do. Funerals, I had decided, are not for the dead. They're for the living.

Shouldn't it be decided, not had decided as no other event is mentioned there after or before that?

  • The speaker had decided that before the other things in his story happened. So everything the speaker is telling you about what happened (I knew) happened after the I had decided.
    – oerkelens
    Sep 20, 2017 at 11:03
  • Hello and welcome to EL&U. I've edited your question to make it clearer. Please feel free to edit it further or to roll back the changes.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:02
  • Thank you @lawrence? Could you please answer it too?
    – user62492
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:13
  • Here's a little writeup about the two sites: What is the difference between ELU and ELL?
    – Lawrence
    Sep 20, 2017 at 14:12
  • I have to post the same question on ELL?
    – user62492
    Sep 20, 2017 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


The perfect relates a prior eventuality to one occurring at 'reference time' (RT) —the time of the situation you are talking about.

Establishing RT does not require an "event"—it may be established by a "non-event" such as remaining silent or by a state such as knowing or being.

The RT in this case is established before the past perfect is used: I didn't, I knew. In this context, I had decided indicates that the speaker reached the decision that funerals are for the living, not the dead,before RT, and that decision gave rise to his knowledge at RT that not speaking was the right thing to do.

  • now i kind of got it. But could you please provide me some more examples of this sort. So that i could understand better?
    – user62492
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:18
  • 1
    @user62492 "I had written (pa·pf) a very short answer, so you *didn't (past) understand my original answer." RT is past, your not understanding, and my writing occurred before that and gave rise to your not understanding. Sep 20, 2017 at 12:22
  • had occurred before that and gave rise to your not understanding*
    – user62492
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:24
  • @user62492 Sorry - 'past perfect'. Sep 20, 2017 at 12:40
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    Sep 20, 2017 at 15:19

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