I cleaned my room after I got up.

I had cleaned my room after I got up.

In the above two sentences, though there is a difference in the tenses used- the former being in simple past and the latter in past perfect- I am not able to deduce any significant diff. in their meanings. Are both of the sentences correct, and can these be used interchangeably. Please explain.

Another example:

British invaded India in 1947

British had invaded India in 1947

Thanks :)

2 Answers 2


Essentially, the simple past tense and past perfect refer to different time frames when things happen. These time frames are relative to each other, not set times that stand on their own.

Which tense you choose would depend on the context and the time frame the main events are set in. There is no distinction when the sentences are taken out of context in the way you have done.

For example, if you tell a story or relate an event to someone using the simple past, then if you want to mention something that happened earlier, you can use the past perfect to express that.

Let's make up a little story for fun:

The phone rang, and my mother shouted "Billy, it's your friend Mary on the phone, and before you get into a long conversation, I want you to clean your room this afternoon. I will not put up with the mess any longer."

"Yes mum", I replied, although I had cleaned my room after I got up.

So, in the above story, the use of the past perfect tells us that the cleaning took place before the main events in the past tense time frame.

Note: I corrected the word "before" in your example, because it doesn't make sense to say you cleaned your room before you got up - because that would suggest you did it in your sleep!

  • The new edit would make the Before aspect clearer. I agree that it depends on the tone of the whole para as to which tense should be used. But, in the example, won't the change in the tenses change the meaning of the two? Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:36
  • "The diplomatic relationship between France and the Papal States became worse while Alexander was pope. France 'had' invaded Avignon in 1664 after a confrontation between France's ambassador to the Holy See and papal troops." This is a sentence from a Wikipedia article. what diff. would the removal of "had" make. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:39
  • Yes, the word "had" should be in there. It's only a little thing, and does not make a massive difference since there is a date that helps say when it happened, but it helps the readability, and to show the time frames are different. This becomes even more useful when there are a lot of time frame changes within a complex story. If it wasn't there, it would be possible to get mixed up in a complicated story.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:43
  • I get it completely. Thanks for explaining so well. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:52

The second sentence is not correct. The past perfect is used to describe an action that was completed BEFORE an instant in the past, not after it.

EDIT: This edit is in response to the comment about the second example.

Let's ignore the rather odd history of the second example (British military penetration into India began roughly in the second half of the 18th century, and the British recognized Indian independence in 1947).

"The British had invaded in India in 1947" is grammatical as is "The British invaded India in 1947." The difference in meaning is that the first says not only that the event occurred in the past, but also that it preceded some other relevant event in the past, for example Britain's conquest of Afghanistan in 1948 during the the First Afghan War. Because every event in the past occurred before billions of other events in the past, the past perfect must be used only when it is needed to indicate or to emphasize the sequence of related events. Otherwise, the simple past is used.

Let's revert to the first example.

"I had got up before I cleaned my room yesterday" is grammatical. Because the sequence is obvious due to the prepositional phrase and simple logic, this would likely be expressed as "I got up before I cleaned my room," especially in speech or informal writing.

  • I understand your point; but the question still prevails. If we take sentences with the BEFORE aspect, say: British/ British had invaded India in 1947, are both of these correct? Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 15:30
  • @H S Because my response was somewhat lengthy, I addressed it by editing my original answer. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 17:02

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