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I would like to express that it was not until the age of 20 when I had my first steak. However, I do not know what tense should be used and why.

I did not have a steak until I was 20.

I had not had a steak until I was 20.

Or something else?

Will the tense be different for other situations, such as "know" or "see"?

  • Your second example should include (repeated) had, not have. As in In fact, she had not had a lover until attending graduate school at UCLA. – FumbleFingers Feb 6 at 17:20
  • @FumbleFingers You are right. Anyway, is the past perfect tense in your example used because “attending..” is a point in the past? – John V Feb 6 at 17:57
  • Not really. To be honest I'd rather see before instead of until in both my own and your Past Perfect examples (yours which you still haven't edited to correct, which is even more lamentable now it's been copied into one of the answers! :( My advice would always be not to use Past Perfect unless you "need" it - and in your case you don't, so I think you'd be better off sticking with "Simple Past" (with do-support pretty much forced on you by the context). – FumbleFingers Feb 6 at 18:18
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I did not have a steak until I was 20.

Correct. Or,

I didn't have a steak until I was 20.
I didn't try steak until I was 20.
I didn't eat steak until I was 20 years old.

Next,

I had not have a steak until I was 20. *

Incorrect. Alternatives:

Before the age of 20, I had not eaten (a) steak.
I had not had a steak before I was 20. (slightly less optimal, repeating the word "had")

Will the tense be different for "know" or "see"?

Well, you may say "didn't see", "hadn't seen".
Also, "didn't know about", "hadn't known about".

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If you are talking about a completed action in a time before now, you would use the simple past tense: "My parents were vegetarians. I did not have a steak until I was 20". If you are talking about a completed action in the past that happened before something else, you would use the past perfect tense 'had' - 'I was 21. I had not had a steak until I was 20, so I knew little of beef'.

Simple past tense
Past perfect tense

  • 1
    You left the typo in there--it should be "I had not had a steak..." – Katy Feb 6 at 17:51

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