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Tell me please what is the difference between the following sentences: 1 "Mike hoped to live in that house, but he couldn't afford it." 2 "Mike had hoped to live in that house, but he couldn't afford it." Are those two sentences identical in meaning? if they are, then what is "had" in the second one for?

  • Ofcourse, there's a difference in tenses between the two sentences and the meaning also differs. The first sentence signifies that Mike, at some unidentified point of the past, had the hope of living in that house but he couldn't afford it and that was the end of story. No other info was given and that's why you reach an end to the context. The second sentence, however, can't just be alone. It has to be in a context for you to understand the full meaning of it - since it means that prior to a certain point in the past (which is unmentioned here) Mike had the hope of living in that house. – Ahmed Ayman Jan 15 '18 at 8:58
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(1) Mike hoped to live in that house, but he couldn't afford it.

(2) Mike had hoped to live in that house, but he couldn't afford it.

The use of the past perfect form (had hoped) entails the need for looking back in time from a standpoint that feels remote to the speaker.

Normally, the standpoint that feels remote to the speaker is a point in the past.

Let's see @Billy Kerr's example here:

The house stood on a hill in a beautiful area of the city. Mike went to see the bank manager because he had hoped to live in that house, but couldn't afford it. The bank manager was sympathetic and agreed to a loan.

Here, the point is in the past from which the speaker views the event of hoping is Mike going to see the bank manager.

However, this is not the only case where the standpoint that feels remote to the speaker is a point in the past.

Here's what this article starts with:

I had hoped to get through the first week of 2018 without writing a heart-stopping column about mice.

But I can see now that I was a fool.

Because this article starts with this, there's no context before the first line of I had hoped to... Still, it uses the past perfect form (had hoped). Why?

Because the writer wanted to make it clear at the outset that his hope could not be realized at a certain point in the past.

The meaning of hoping entails that you're not sure about whether the hope will be realized as a reality or not. Once it's determined that the hope is not realizable, you can no longer call it a "hope."

Although the writer didn't specifically mention in the article when that certain point in the past was, we can easily guess that certain point is somewhere between his hoping in the past and the time of writing the article (the present), and we can guess it from the second line (But I can see now that I was a fool.)

Now going back to the need for looking back in time from a standpoint that feels remote to the speaker, the standpoint that feels remote to the speaker can be something other than a point in the past.

If I had hoped to live in that house, I would have worked harder.

Here, the past perfect form (had hoped) still entails the need for looking back in time from a standpoint that feels remote to the speaker. But now the standpoint that feels remote to the speaker is not a point in the past but the present point in a hypothetical world.

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No, they don't mean the same thing.

Which tense you should use would depend on context. If you are telling a story in which the events are being related in the simple past tense, then using the past perfect "had hoped" refers to something which happened earlier.

For example, imagine a story written in the simple past tense like this:

The house stood on a hill in a beautiful area of the city. Mike went to see the bank manager because he had hoped to live in that house, but couldn't afford it. The bank manager was sympathetic and agreed to a loan.

The use of the past perfect "had hoped" tells us that his hope to live there was prior to the events being related in the simple past tense.

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