Just received a phone call of X from Florida. He said that some of the books I bought/had bought and that he was stocking/had been stocking in his basement were destroyed in the hurricane. I thought that the Book of XXXX could be in the list, so would it be possible for you to find another copy of it?

Just would like to know if "had bought" and "had been stocking" would better. I'm not sure because it seem obvious that before being destroyed in the hurricane, the records had been bought and stocked. I think in this case the context is clear enough to understand without past perfect

  • What did he say, what did you say, what is the exact sentence you need help with?
    – mplungjan
    Oct 5, 2017 at 20:46
  • 4
    I agree that the meaning is clear enough whether you use the simple past or the past perfect, but I think the past perfect is stylistically better, because it fits the sequence of events better: by the time of the hurricane (in the past) you already had bought the books and he had been stocking them in the basement.
    – stangdon
    Oct 5, 2017 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


The fact that something is clear from the context doesn't negate the need to use correct grammar. If someone called and said something that applies to the time before that, it should become Past Perfect. Besides, the buying and the storing/stocking happened not only before the fact of someone saying it to you (which is already in the past), but also before having been destroyed (which was before the act of saying).

The timeline looks somewhat like this:

stored/stocked ----(before)----destroyed----(before)---- said.

The only reason "was destroyed" hasn't become "had been destroyed" is that it is possible to say about something, "It is destroyed" (meaning it is unfit for use after having been destroyed in the past; it's just that this particular word also has a meaning of a state of being, not only of changing states).


FYI you receive a phone call from someone, not of someone.

I got a phone call from Jim, from Florida (or "from Jim who lives in Florida")

Also, I think "stored" is a better verb to describe the action than "stocked". To stock something means to have it available for purchase. Since you already bought the books, the bookstore owner is simply storing the books for you, until you can pick them up.

Otherwise I agree with stangdon that the past perfect tenses are justified here. To some extent, the past perfect continuous is actually required with the second verb.

I was told that the books I (had) bought, that he had been storing in his basement, were destroyed by the hurricane.

"Bought" is a single action, so it's fine either as a simple past event, or relative to some subsequent event. However, storing is an ongoing process, and since the entire point of the sentence is to establish an action which has been altered by a subsequent action, the past perfect continuous is the best way to make this clear.

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