I (non-native English speaker) have sometimes been confused about when to use past simple and when to use past perfect.

President Donald Trump has vetoed a measure from Congress that revoked his declaration of a national emergency at the US-Mexico border.

Lawmakers, including 12 Republicans, had passed the rejection resolution on Thursday in a surprising rebuke of Mr Trump’s signature issue.

Why does this news article use 'had passed(past perfect)' instead of 'passed(past simple)'?

If I use 'passed', what is the difference between two sentences? (expecially relating to 'on Thursday')

Lawmakers passed the rejection resolution on Thursday.

Lawmakers had passed the rejection resolution on Thursday.

1 Answer 1


The past perfect is used for past-in-past; that is to say, things further back in time than the main time of the sentence.

Thus, the report is saying that Trump vetoed a measure - simple past. Earlier than that, lawmakers passed the rejection resolution. Because the context is already past, you can use the past perfect to indicate something that was already in the past at the time the text is referring to. Thus it shows that the rejection resolution happened before, linking it in time to the previous sentence. If it were simple past, it would still provide the same information - as it mentions Thursday - but it would seem like it was an entirely separate point. The use of the past perfect links the two, making them part of one narration.

  • Your explanation is awesome! I've fully understood. Thank you very much~!!
    – Dasik
    Mar 17, 2019 at 1:27

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