I found such a sentence:

We had not reached the station yet when it began to rain

And as I see the logic of English people, it's so:

The action of "not reaching" happened firstly and only then happened the action "it began to rain".

Oooookay, but!

What if we will add the word "already" to the rain part to make a hint that it should be Perfect, too:

We had not reached the station yet when it had already begun to rain

Is it correct? It's a problem, because both parts have some word which hints at using "Past Perfect". For the first part of the sentence it's "yet" and for the latter one is "already". What to do? Which action happened firstly then if both of them are in Past Perfect? Paradox...

  • 1
    I prefer "We had not reached the station before it began to rain." Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 8:14
  • I'm assuming rached is a typo, since you spelled reached correctly in the first example.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


You shouldn't use the past perfect in your example. It is incorrect.

You want to indicate that the arrival at the station was after the start of the rain. So you say "We had not yet arrived at at the station when it began to rain". The when clause gives the time, the main clause indicates that an event did not happen before this time (and implies it happen after). Also note the fluent placement of "yet"

Using the double past perfect just doesn't make sense:

When it had already begun to rain... (at some time after the rain started)
...we had not yet arrived at the station

At some time after the rain started we were not at the station. But the present is "some time after the rain started" so this tells us nothing about the time when we arrived or even if we arrived at all.

Because the sentence is now rather meaningless we don't use the past perfect like this.

  • Okay, is it possible to say "We had not yet arrived at the station when it already began to rain"? Just changing Past Perfect for Past SImple but saving "already"? Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 9:13
  • 1
    That sentence looks like the sort of semi-grammatical speech that native speakers would call a mistake. It looks like you had started to say one thing, but then changed your mind an ended up with a fairly meaningless bag of words. If speaking carefully, you would not use that sentence. You could say "It had already begun to rain when we arrived a the station", for example with the same meaning but much more clearly.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 10:50
  • You mean I could have said something like "We had not yet arrived to the station when it had already begun to rain[by the evening]? Will it be correct with the "[by the evening]". You want to say that the "we had not yet arrived to the station" part is in Perfect because it has "when it began to rain" like a reson to be in Perfect, but the "it began to rain" partdoesn't have its own hard reason to be in Perfect, am I right? Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 11:15
  • I still think that this is not correct. Or at least the past perfect is simply not adding any meaning. We don't say that. I can't think of an similar sentence when the past perfect would be used like this. The time given in the "when" clause needs a simple past (and without "already") , otherwise there is very little meaning to the sentence.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 11:21

Past perfect can be quite complex and should be used only when you are sure about the likely understanding. Even then, many people prefer using past simple with time hints. Quoting from Canonical Post #2

☛ ”Don’t use the perfect unless you need it.”

☛ Use perfect constructions to introduce prior eventualities as context for the current discussion.

In the case described in the question, there is more than one way of "telling the story", with different emphasis:

  1. It started raining while we were on our way to the station. (Emphasizing the time the rain started at)

  2. While we were on our way to the station, it started raining. (Emphasizing the fact that we were on our way)

  3. We had not reached the station when it started raining. (Suggesting that you expected a different situation, in which you would have already reached it)

All the "stories" above take place in the past, and the time of reference is when the rain started, as seen by using the past simple tense "it started raining".

In contrast, the suggested sentence in the question uses past perfect "it had already begun to rain". This leaves the sentence without a clear time reference: since the rain is now is prior event, to what point in time does "already" refer to? Without a time reference, the sentence sounds odd (this is maybe "the logic of English people").

A possible way to use past perfect in the second clause is to set the time reference to the point when you reached the station. If the story takes place at that time, then the rain becomes a prior eventuality.

  1. When we reached the station, it had already begun to rain.

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