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When I describe two actions in the past, one of which precedes the other, when is the Past Perfect more preferable than the Past Simple?

    1. Jenny put on a mask after I put on goggles.
    2. Jenny put on a mask after I had put on goggles.
    1. I was scared after you yelled at me.
    2. I was scared after you had yelled at me.
    1. After the ghost said, “Hello, children!”, we all screamed.
    2. After the ghost had said, “Hello, children!”, we all screamed.

Which of the sentences, the first or the second, is preferable in the three situations above?

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  • All of them are past simple....don't know why^^.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 14:02
  • "I was scared after you had yelled at me." Is this a correct sentence? The correct sentence would be "I was scared when you yelled at me". I was commenting since I am a non native speaker.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 14:04
  • Regarding the above sentence, why after is not correct would be you scream simultaneously when another yells art you. If you use after, it sounds like you screamed after 3 or 4 seconds the another yelled at you.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 14:33
  • I'm sorry. Scared. But the same thing. You were not scared after someone yelled at you.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 14:48

1 Answer 1

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When words like "after" and "before" are used in a sentence the sequence of events is clear and past perfect is optional. So either past perfect or past simple is fine. If you change "after" to " when" it's different:

  1. Jenny put on a mask when I put on goggles = happening at the same time
  2. Jenny put on a mask when I had put on goggles = first I put on goggles, then Jenny put on a mask.
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  • I am sorry, please teach me. You are saying if either choosing the past simple or past perfect is optional, but at the same time you are saying "the sequence of events is clear". Would you kindly elaborate more? To me they sound completely different.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 15:36
  • Because the sequence is clear past perfect is not necessary. You can use it if you like but past simple is fine too, if "after" or "before" are used, because these words make the timing clear.
    – anouk
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 15:39
  • So, are you saying the past perfect is "fine" even though it is "optional"? I am getting confused. To me, sorry, using after and before is enough. But since you are a native speaker, I have nothing to say anymore.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 15:45
  • But don't you think this sentence "I was scared after you had yelled at me." is strange? Since per your saying, time sequence is "very clear", when was I scared???
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 15:57
  • 1
    @KentaroTomono When doing something is optional, you can, but you don't have to do it. When you say I was scared after you yelled at me, it's clear that the yelling happened first, and my being scared happened second because it says X happened after Y. Using a past perfect in conjunction with a past simple makes the sequence of events clear as well (a past perfect sets up a context for another past event – in this case described by a past simple – which necessarily puts it before that past event); therefore nothing is gained by using a past perfect when the sequence of events is clear.
    – user3395
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 16:05

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