5

I've seen this sentence in another post here:

  1. Tom Cruise was thinking of a career in the church before finding a job in the movies.

Would it be fine to use the Past-Perfect as well? If so, which tense is better?

Here are a few options that came to my mind:

  1. Tom Cruise had been thinking of a career in the church before finding a job in the movies. or
  2. Tom Cruise had been thinking of a career in the church before he found a job in the movies.
  3. Tom Cruise had thought of a career in the church before he found a job in the movies.
4

All of these are perfectly acceptable. The forms using "had been thinking" suggest a process of thought which extended over some time, but ended, either when the job was found, or before that. The for with "had thought" suggests a single instance of thought that occurred before the job was found.

But many native speakers will not make these fine distinctions, and may use any of the four forms in the question interchangeably, with no difference of meaning.

4

All three of these sentences are grammatical as well. The past perfect tense is no better than the simple past tense in this situation; they're equally good. The word before tells you that the thinking happened, and then the finding happened afterwards.

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