Going through customs to leave a country can sometimes be very frustrating. First she was asked why she was not rolling her carryon. The handle got stuck when she got off the car so she had been forced to open the suitcase to maneuver the handle back to the suitcase.

Could somebody explain me why had been forced instead of was forced if this came after "getting stuck". I see no real reason except the completion of this action. But is it enough to justify the use of past perfect? I doubt so

1 Answer 1


You don't generally have to 'justify' the use of a particular mood/aspect/tense of a verb in English. You just use any that has appropriate meaning and doesn't seem 'wrong'. The idea of all the little subtle and not-so-subtle rules that people learning English as a second language are taught is to try to avoid that wrong-seeming, but they will never be perfect.

In this case, however, there's a reason for the past perfect - or it seems so from the brief three sentences we get. The whole thing is in the past tense, and at the point in the narration where we are told that she had opened the suitcase, the opening of the suitcase was further in the past. That makes it usual to use the past perfect.

  • so ok in this case what came first is the opening so logically past perfect then came the stucking (past simple) but it is strange because i got another answer that said it was the contrary( because of the conjonction so) so I was completly lost
    – Yves Lefol
    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:47
  • The combination of tenses is unusual, but not wrong as such. The combination of tenses does not definitively show the order of the events here. I would write it all out differently, but as it is, it is confusing rather than wrong.
    – SamBC
    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:00
  • SamBC, I think that you have not completely answered the question. Can you use "was forced" instead of "have been forced" in this specific case without losing meaning? Which action came first: handle stuck or suitcase open? This last point seems to worry the OP.
    – RubioRic
    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:02
  • yes very confusing because "so "tell us something and the tense used" the contrary" . Why not in this case used past perfect for the whole sentence as it is a kind of flashback and an explaination of why she could not roll her suitcase anymore
    – Yves Lefol
    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:10
  • Yes, I would personally use the past perfect for the handle getting stuck as well. But confusing isn't always wrong (though it might get you marked down in a writing assignment).
    – SamBC
    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:14

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