Someone in the news died today and the following line was used:

He had been suffering from ill health throughout 2017.

Is it possible to say he was suffering from ill health throughout 2017?

  • The two phrasings are not interchangeable, but you have not told us the situation you are trying to describe, which makes it impossible to say which would be preferable. Please edit your post to add sufficient context.
    – choster
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:44
  • someone died yesterday and in article it was stated that he had been suffering from ill health throughout 2017, that`s it.
    – anouk
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:54
  • Looks like this is the article theguardian.com/music/2018/jan/24/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:58
  • 1
    It is almost always possible to replace a past perfect by a simple past (or their corresponding continuous forms). It is always (I think) grammatical, and usually idiomatic. However it subtly changes the meaning - not in the sense that it says things happened differently, or in a different order, but in the sense that if you use a past perfect you are implicitly describing events from the perspective of a more recent time in the past.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 26, 2018 at 0:10
  • thank you Colin, but I am not sure I understand. Do you mean that if I use past perfect the event happened at a more recent time?
    – anouk
    Jan 26, 2018 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


If the quotation is from an obituary then the formulation "had been suffering" is appropriate: the writer is looking back on the final year of someone's life. There is a particular style used in newspaper obituaries. If you are not writing an obituary, for example because the person is still alive then you could say "he was suffering..." with the unstated possible sequel "and then he recovered", or even "and his condition worsened in 2018".


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