Is this sentence correct:

  1. I was happy because I passed my final exam.

Or is it better to use the Past Perfect:

  1. I was happy because I had passed my final exam.
  • You can avoid the issue with "I was happy when I passed my final exam." Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


They are both correct, but in written language the past perfect looks better.

The speaker is talking about a past time (I was happy) but passing the exam had happened before this so a past perfect fits this meaning.

  • I agree they are both correct, but I don't know about "the past perfect looks better" part. I'm inclined to favor the first sentence, and you've given no tangible reason why the second is an improvement.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 20:31
  • 1
    I tend to agree with anouk. I've added a reason, feel free to edit or rollback.
    – James K
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 20:38
  • @JamesK - Thanks for adding a reason. (That was really my ultimate goal.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 22:06
  • What JamesK appended isn't justification for the answerer's opinion. However, in my opinion, the past perfect construction sounds better in writing because written English favors spelling out everything. You can use the past simple because the sequence of events is obvious, and there's no need to be explicit (i.e., backshift). However, these two sentences could well mean different things depending on the context. (E.g., when I was in high school, although we were taught that backshifting is optional in certain contexts, we were required to do it, as that'll never be "wrong" in formal style.)
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 9:20

Why "because" ? The more natural English is here;

I was happy that I had passed the exam.

I was happy to have passed the exam.

You can, of course, use "because" but it is useful for you to learn these ones.

  • Another suggested rewording might be: I was happy when I passed the exam, although it's worth noting that none of these are exact equivalents of the original. (Only the original clearly expresses that the reason for the happiness is the success on the exam.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 20:32

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