When answering a question on here, I wrote a sentence similar to the following one:

I left the place I've been at previously at 3AM.

The intended meaning was that I have been at that place for a length of time, and then left it at 3AM. One user suggested that Past Perfect would be more correct here:

I left the place I had been at previously at 3AM.

On one hand, it makes sense - obviously me being at that place must have preceded me leaving that place. On the other hand, my intuitive reading of this phrase is that at some point even further in the past I had been at that place at 3AM, and at the time I'm speaking about currently I left it:

I left (the place I have been at previously) at 3AM.

I left (the place I had been at previously at 3AM).

Am I correct? Are both sentences grammatically correct? If not, is there any other way to resolve the ambiguity? Also, does the meaning change when to leave is in Present Perfect?

?I've left the place I've been at previously at 3AM.

?I've left the place I had been at previously at 3AM.

1 Answer 1


I left the place I had previously been at [at 3 am].

You were there until you left so anything that happened before that has to be Past Perfect in the sentence as you have written it. If you have Simple Past in those kinds of sentences, anything else going to a time prior to it, has to be in Past Perfect.

He spoke the language he had spoken since birth when he went to England.

We laughed at those jokes the same way we had always laughed at them.

Simple past cannot be followed by the present perfect.

Please compare those to these: I've left places like that even though I've been in them many times.

I leave places like that precisely because I have never liked them.

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