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a) He had started visiting a church when he was cured of injuries he had suffered in an accident.

b) People had started talking about my retirement as I was in my 30s.

Are the past perfect constructions of the above sentences are correct? Can we replace it with Simple past tense, i.e.,

a) He started visiting a church.

b) People started talking about my .......

I feel use of past perfect is incorrect here because visiting and talking are not completed action at the time talking about past. Also, there is no other past which we can assume happen after that.

E.g.,

a) People had already started visiting church before I Reached.

b) People had already started talking before the show began.

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    It depends on what you want to say. The first two are not wrong.
    – Lambie
    Feb 1 '20 at 23:16
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I would say that sentence A

He had started visiting a church when he was cured of injuries he had suffered in an accident.

would be correct, provided that the intent is to say that he started visiting the church before, but not long before, the cure occurred. Indeed it carries an implication that the cure was due to, or attributed to, his church attendance, although context might make it clear that this was not intended. In this I agree with the comment by kandyman.

If this is the intended meaning, a change to the simple past by deleting the "had" would be a mistake, because it would change the meaning.

The modified sentence:

He started visiting a church when he was cured of injuries he had suffered in an accident.

would mean that he started visiting the church at the time of, or more likely shortly after, the cure, and carries an implication that he only started visiting the church because of the cure, although again context might show this implication not to be intended.

This sentence (A) is somewhat complex and potentially confusing, but there is nothing incorrect about it, nor would I call it poor writing. It could be rewritten as:

He had several injuries that he had suffered in an accident. Then he started visiting a church, and soon after that he was cured of the injuries.

This avoids the past perfect in the key sentence, and makes the sequence clear. But I think it is much more pedestrian writing. The revision loses the style of the example, and also removes the implication of causation, which would be a gain if the implication was not intended, but a loss if it was intended.

Now to example (B):

People had started talking about my retirement as I was in my 30s.

This is a bit unusual, but I would say not incorrect, and context might render it clear and natural. The only reason for the use of the past perfect that I can see is if people stopped talking about the narrator's retirement later. I would add that the use of "as" is at best unclear, and "when" would be better if the intent is to indicate that the talk stated when the narrator was in his or her 30s, not because of the narrator's age.

(B1) People had started talking about my retirement when I was in my 30s. But when I developed the Mustard Club at age 42, all such talk stopped cold, and I was instantly praised as a very clever person.

This added context makes sense of "People had started talking" by showing a later event which the talk preceded. In the absence of such a later event, and particularly if the intended meaning is that the talk continues through to the present moment, the simple past would be better:

(B2) People started talking about my retirement when I was in my 30s.

The later event which use of the past perfect implies can be given in extended context, or even implied, but should be present in some form, otherwise the simple past is better.

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Both sentences are odd. The past perfect is used to describe an action or state that occurred before another action or state in the past.

So your first sentence is incorrect. If you are trying to say that he started attending church after completion of his cure, the sentence should read

"He started attending church after he had been cured of injuries that he had suffered in an accident."

The attendance began in the past, but after the cure, which in turn necessarily occurred after the injuries were incurred. Notice the sequence of events. Also, notice that "when" is not as informative a choice of word as "after."

If you mean that the attendance started while the cure was taking place, the sentence should read

"He started attending church while he was being cured of injuries he had suffered in an accident."

Now the sequence is different: attendance and cure are concurrent but followed the accident. Again, "when" is a poor choice of words; "while" would be clearer. But notice that the past perfect is still used about the accident because it preceded the concurrent past events.

As for the second sentence, it is hard to imagine a context where it would be correct. What past event did this discussion precede? You could say,

"People had started discussing my retirement long before I reached forty."

Although you did not ask about it, the "as" in your second example is another poor choice of words. I am not sure whether you mean "because I was in my 30s" or "at the same time as I was in my 30s."

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    I think OP means the following chronology: Event A - he was injured. Event B - he started going to church. Event C - he was cured of the injuries. That would make the first sentence acceptable.
    – kandyman
    Oct 3 '20 at 20:11
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    @kandyman And would make the use of simple past tense (“He started visiting a church when he was cured of injuries he had suffered in an accident”) incorrect, because it implies that visiting church was a result of the cure.
    – Mike Scott
    Feb 2 at 13:32

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