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Can anyone tell me if it's better to use "was", "had been" or simple "had" in this kind of context as shown below?

  1. I was able to finish the test in only 1 hour and a half and then I had used the time left to proof read everything.

or

  1. I had been able to finish the test in only 1 hour and a half and then I had used the time left to proof read everything.

or

  1. I had finished the test in only 1 hour and a half and then used the time that had been left to proof read everything

I myself would personally consider the 1 or 3 to be the correct, but I wonder what other people think?

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    Option 1 seems best. Option 3 is okay also, but the phrase "the time that had been left" would be better replaced with "the time left" – Tom Apr 9 at 12:59
  • Thanks for you input @Tom – Prometheus Apr 9 at 15:12
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  1. I was able to finish the test in only 1 hour and a half and then I had used the time left to proof read everything.

is the best of the three, but "I had used" is not grammatical in this construction. A simple "I used" is better.

"an hour and a half" is more idiomatic than "1 hour and a half", and "90 minutes " is perhaps better here as the sentence is already on the long side.

"proofread" is better as one word in my view, although two words are not wrong.

I had been able to finish the test in only 1 hour and a half ...

implies that the speaker was able to do this at soem past time, but could not do it now. Even for that meaning it is slightly awkward.

I had finished the test in only 1 hour and a half ...

is awkward if not wrong, but

I finished the test in only an hour and a half

is quite natural. It simply reports a fact, while the first version stresses an achievement -- what the person was able to do.

  • Thanks David. Your answer is helping me a lot! One thing that i don't quite get is: You said "i had finished the test..." is "awkward". But isn't the past perfect used to describe things or events that have happened in the past and are completed? "I had written, i had attended, i had finished". For example: "I had attended this test and could finish it very quickly". I always thought past simple is used to describe a simple fact that has happened, without any further details: "i finished the test". "i attended the test" "i wrote a letter". Am i wrong? – Prometheus Apr 13 at 7:41
  • @Prometheus I am not sure that my feeling of awkwardness corresponds to any formal rule of grammar. I am sure that the simple past can be used for more complex ideas: "I finished the test far more quickly than i expected" For me "had finished" fits better when another event in sequence is to be described "I had finished when the bell rang" Perhaps this should be a separate followup question so that I and perhaps others could respond at greater length. – David Siegel Apr 13 at 15:14
  • Hey David! I think everything is clear so far. You helped me to understand the tenses much better. I think i have now a better feeling when to use them - "I had been fishing when this guy approached me", "i had called him after i had lunch", "i worked for several hours yesterday". Or: "He has not seen us" - when its in the current situation happening, "he didn't saw us" - when its completed, somewhere in the past. "I have been busy lately" when its relevant to the current situation or "i was busy" when i try to tell a story or something some time ago I think i got it! Thanks David! – Prometheus Apr 13 at 19:32
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    @Prometheus "he didn't see us" never "He didn't saw us", the latter is just wrong. "I called him after I had lunch" is far more common that "I had called him after..." "I have been busy" and "I was busy" are in practice used interchangeably, although only the first can be modified with "lately". English is far more a collection of exceptions than a set of clear rules. – David Siegel Apr 13 at 19:52

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