It had been umpteen years since he and I had seen each other.

I found this sentence in a passage. I think here should be saw instead of had seen. Am I right?

  • 1
    "Saw" is fine, but many native speakers will choose the present perfect.
    – Andrew
    Mar 9, 2018 at 6:33

2 Answers 2


It had been umpteen years since he and I had seen each other.

This tells us that

  1. There was a time in the past in which you could say "we have seen each other".
  2. The actual seeing each other happened before that time because you use the perfect "had seen".
  3. Since that time, umpteen years passed.
  4. After these umpteen years, there was the time to which this statement refers, which is also in the past because it begins with "it had been" (past perfect).
  5. Something must have happened between then and the time the story is told. (I wonder what?)

This sentence is not incorrect, but as you can see, it is quite complex and the choice of tenses tells the reader a lot (does it tell the right story? If not, the tenses may be incorrect).

If you change "had seen" to "saw", it will change the meaning by merging #1 and #2 to a single event in which you saw each other. The rest would be the same (umpteen years passed since that event, etc.)

Also, if the sentence had started with "it has been" instead, it would mean that it refers to the present, and I would not expect anything to happen since then (#5).



he and I saw each other
he and I had seen each other

are acceptable. The nuance is

he and I had seen each other

emphasizes the long length of time. Using past perfect implies that other things have happened since the past perfect occurred.

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