Jim has always travelled a lot. In fact, he was only two years old when he first flew to Madrid. His mother is German and his father is French. Jim was born in England, but his parents met/had met in Lisboa, Portugal after they had been living there for five years. They met one day while Jim's father was having lunch at a restaurant and his mother sat down next to him. Anyway, Jim travels a lot because his parents also travels a lot.


Would it be possible to choose met instead had met? First I thought it would not be possible because the meeting happened before the birth but now after thinking it over I'm not too sure. Because of the context, it seems obvious that the birth was a long time after the meeting and the clause with after use the past perfect progressive but it is true that both event are on the same time frame so may be "had met" is better


1 Answer 1


As JamesK mentions in his comment, don't use the past perfect unless you have to. In this context "met" is perfectly fine, since it describes a non-repeating, momentary action.

However, as with any language, eventually your English will embrace things like nuance and style. You may deliberately use the perfect tenses simply because they sound better, or because they mirror the use of the perfect tense in another part of the sentence. In this context the writer may have felt that "had met ... had been living" created a nice parallel, and also evoked a feeling of preparation as if their meeting only "set the stage" for a more important later action.

I actually had gone to see the priest before I had proposed to my fiance, but that was before we broke off the engagement.

In the above example it would be perfectly grammatical to use the simple past tense "went" and "proposed", but the use of the perfect tense creates a kind of anticipation that something significant is going to happen afterward.

  • If it was the case, would it better to put "Jim was born " at the end of the sentence to create some kind of suspens (what significant event is going to happen.)
    – Yves Lefol
    Nov 1, 2017 at 7:03
  • @user5577 I agree. It's arguable whether the perfect tense is good writing here, but it could have been used.
    – Andrew
    Nov 1, 2017 at 16:23

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