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I need a little piece of advise.

I am not sure about the right tense to use in a two clause sentence with the same subjects and before.

Please, look at the two sentences below and the use of tenses.

Before they started working, they discussed about economics.

vs

Before they started working, they had discussed about economics.

I do personally think that the second sentence is better than the first one because of the choice of the past perfect tense. -> they had discussed BEFORE they started to work.

However, my grammar book suggests that, in this kind of sentences, I should use the former.

What's your take on this?

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    On a side note, the verb discuss is transitive, so it should be followed directly by the object being discussed, without the word about: "They discussed economics." This is different from an intransitive verb like talk that doesn't take an object, so you would need an adverbial prepositional phrase: "They talked about economics." – Canadian Yankee Nov 30 '17 at 20:57
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These two sentences reflect different times during which the discussion about economics occurred. It's hard to tell which sentence one should use without proper context.

The former uses only the simple past. This means that the discussion about economics occurred directly before the work began.

Before I got in the car, I unlocked it.

Before I went to the restaurant, I checked the traffic report.

The latter uses both the simple past and the pluperfect. This means that the discussion about economics occurred some time before the work began.

Before I got in the car, I had unlocked it.

Before I went to the restaurant, I had checked the traffic report.

In the first set of examples, one action (unlocking the car) happened directly before the second action (getting in the car).

In the second set of examples, one action (checking the traffic report) happened some time before the second action (going to the restaurant).

This resource provides a great explanation if you happen to be still confused.

  • Valuable piece of advise. I did not think about the difference between directly before and some time before. – GoldenAge Nov 30 '17 at 20:26

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