In Michael Swan and Carherine Walter book "how ENGLISH works" there are exercises:

Choose the right tenses (present perfect, past or past perfect, simple or progressive).
25. After he (finish) breakfast he (sit) down to write some letters.

My answer is :
finished; has been sitting;

but correct answer in the book is:
had finished; sat;

I am thinking that both are correct and ask myself why authors did not give us both solution like correct? My thinking I have just shared with you.

  • I have just edited my question and at the same time, I have answered my question. Thanks @ColleenV
    – b2ok
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 15:42
  • 1
    The extra detail is very helpful, I’ve taken your question off hold.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


I have only just seen your question, so I'm somewhat late in answering. Here is my answer: First he finishes his breakfast, then he sits down to write the letters. It is set in the past, so the first action is past perfect, because it precedes another action in past simple. Past before past = past perfect However, "after" is used so the past perfect is not necessary, you could use past simple for the first action as well, because the sequence is clear.

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