Am I correct?

Yesterday lunchtime we had a bust-up.

This is just stating a fact. The bust-up happened at lunchtime.

Yesterday lunchtime we had been having a bust-up.

This is emphasizing the fact that at lunchtime the bust-up had been going on for a while.

Yesterday lunchtime we were having a bust-up.

The bust-up was in progress at lunchtime. I am probably talking about the bust-up, describing it.

Yesterday lunchtime we had had a bust-up.

The bust-up finished before lunchtime.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 13, 2018 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


The first three interpretations are correct.

There's a missing preposition in your examples that makes a difference to the interpretation of the fourth example.

As you have mentioned, the past perfect is used to convey that something happened before some other action in the past. In your fourth example the bust-up is the action that occurred before something else, but it's not clear what that something else is. Depending on the preposition it could be several things.

'During lunchtime' - lunchtime is an extended time period and the bust-up occurred before some point within that period, but it might have started during that period, too. Most people would understand that it started and finished while lunch was going on, so you can't use past perfect here.

If it started before lunch and ended during lunch you would have to be more clear.

Yesterday at lunch we had a bust-up. It had started before the meal but didn't finish until we were done eating.

'At lunchtime' - this could mean the same thing as 'during' or it could mean 'at the beginning of'. You can use past perfect for the second case because the bust-up is finished before the beginning of lunch, but not the first case. Because it's ambiguous this is not a good preposition to use.

'By lunchtime' - this is the only case where it's absolutely clear that the bust-up was finished at lunchtime and you can use past perfect.

Yesterday by lunchtime we had had a bust-up.

The lesson here is that shades of meaning make a difference and even native speakers understand this in different ways, so be very clear with what you mean.

  • I deleted several of my comments and used them to rewrite the answer, above.
    – dwilli
    Jun 14, 2018 at 17:34

The first three interpretations are correct. Since you've changed the original question, only the last one is wrong (restating the sentence at issue so that it makes sense):

  1. Yesterday during lunch we'd had a bust-up.

This means that you had a bust-up during lunch. Without further context I don't see this as suggesting anything else.

Let me give you some more examples:

  1. Yesterday morning we'd had a fight.

= "We had a fight yesterday morning."

  1. We'd had a fight when I had breakfast.

= "We had a fight before breakfast."

  1. In the morning, when I had breakfast, we'd had a fight.

= "We had a fight before breakfast."

  1. In the morning we'd had a fight.

= "We had a fight before breakfast."

  1. Yesterday morning we'd had a fight.

= "We had a fight during the morning."

  1. This morning I've had a fight.

= "I had a fight in the morning."


  • 2
    it seems the difference between the two answers is due to assumptions about the missing word in the examples. One assumes 'during lunchtime' while the other assumes 'at lunchtime'. Your answers make more sense to me if I consider 'during'. But here, your examples 4 and 5 appear to be exactly like the fourth example in the question and you come to the same conclusion that @anouk did, that the fight was finished by that time.
    – dwilli
    Jun 14, 2018 at 15:36

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