What tense do I need to use with the word before

They truly believe that the benefits we obtained are nothing compared with the damage we caused/had caused before.

  • 1
    Hello, sorry but I'm not sure to understand what you are asking for.
    – Ced
    Mar 4, 2019 at 19:39
  • OP wants to know whether the past simple or the past perfect is more appropriate to refer to a previous past as denoted by the adverb "before".
    – Gustavson
    Mar 4, 2019 at 20:44

2 Answers 2


Either is possible. "Before" makes the sequence clear, so the past perfect is not necessary, but it is used in written language.


The thing that you have to learn about tenses in English is that, a lot of the time, there's no single 'right' tense to use. There's usually one or more that are wrong, but it leaves several that correctly and appropriately convey the meaning you intend.

In this case, both are potentially appropriate. The fact that the sentence itself is present time makes the past simple seem more appropriate to me than the past perfect, but that's a stylistic matter rather than a grammatical one, in my opinion. Using the past perfect could create a nuance of the damage having been caused a bit further back in the past, but I wouldn't rely on that as a solid meaning - just a sense.

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