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I saw the following sentence at http://www.learnersdictionary.com/qa/-Come-Back-and-Get-Back- :

I had forgotten a lot of what I learned about music, but it's all coming back to me now.

The past perfect is supposed to describe events that happened prior to those described by the simple past, so I'm wondering whether the simple past "forgot" should be used in place of "had forgotten" and the past perfect "had learned" instead of "learned."

I'd appreciate your help.

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There is more to the past perfect than the sequence of past events in relation to each other. The perfect is also used to indicate the completion of a process. It is aspectual.

Here, the process of forgetting attained its state of completion in the past.

I had forgotten all about that!

can be (woodenly) paraphrased as "the process of forgetting was complete for me with respect to that".

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  • Considering the second clause in the OP is cast in the present progressive, wouldn't there seem to be a conflict between the past perfect in the first clause and the present (progressive) in the second? Should the past perfect in the first clause be replaced by the present perfect, as in "I have forgotten a lot of what I learned about music, but it's all coming back to me now"? – Apollyon Jul 10 '18 at 0:51
  • There is no conflict. The sentence in the OP is idiomatic. The interrogative clause what I learned about music has least impact there on the tense choice; the main contrast is between having forgotten and remembering. Your recommendation, I have forgotten, has a conflict with but it's all coming back to me now. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 10 '18 at 10:09

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