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I am aware that people speak in past simple tense when they use a finished time words (last year, last month, in 1805, etc.).

I also understand that, when the sentence is in present perfect, you cannot use those words; you can only use UNFINISHED time words (today, this week, this month, etc.).

My question is: can you use the past perfect tense with an unfinished time words, as in,

A: Have you been to New York?

B: Yes, I had been there last year.

Or something similar along the lines of "had been to (a place) last year".

Please note that it is NOT "...by last year" or "...until last year"; it's just "... last year".

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    Your sentence in B is grammatical. But it should not be used as an answer to the question in A. – Jim Jun 1 at 18:32
  • This question was cross-posted on EL&U 2 hours later. We are currently discussing the efficacy of such actions at english.SE.meta – Cascabel Jun 1 at 21:17
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Past Perfect: "When we talk about something that happened in the past we sometimes want to refer back to something that happened before that time."

It's like a double past tense.

Therefore, you might say "I had been there the previous year."

"Previous" is before the events of a story, which is set in the past.

Considering your example:

I had been there last year.

The problem is "last year" takes it's reference point from the present. It's the previous year in terms of the current year.

However, it ought to be in terms of a past year. In this way, it seems like a mistake.

However, it doesn't mean the sentence "I had been there last year" is completely grammatically impossible.

It is using a jumble of time specifications. For example, one moment the Past Perfect, then switching to the Simple Past or the historical/dramatic/narrative present.

This may be useful in certain contexts.

For example, a whole narrative set in the past:

She lived in Paris. I had been there last year but failed to visit her.

  • The problem is "last year" takes it's reference point from the present. It's the previous year in terms of the current year. But if the whole narrative was set in the past and the reference point as well—would it not be acceptable to use "last" in that case? She lived in Paris. I had been there last year but failed to visit her. – Mv Log Jun 1 at 20:09
  • @MvLog , I think you are right. Updated the answer. – Sam Jun 1 at 20:32
  • Thank you very much for your answer. But I still don't see how "the previous year" does not take the reference point from the present unlike "last year". Wouldn't "the previous year" be interpreted differently depending on the current year? For example, if you say "the previous year" today, it would mean 2018. However, if you say it in 2020, it would mean 2019. In this respect, I don't get how "the previous year" is any different from "last year". Could you please explain further? – user96410 Jun 2 at 13:42
  • How about if person A asked, "Had you been to New York before you started working"? Could person B answer, "Yes, I had been there last year"? – user96410 Jun 2 at 14:39
  • @babananana when the reference point is the present moment of the speaker, they would say "last year". When the reference point is another time (not the present moment of the speaker), then "previous" sounds more technically accurate. If you do choose the word "last", then you are moving to the narrative tense. In that tense, you are speaking as if your time frame had shifted back to the past. So, they are both options. – Sam Jun 2 at 15:18

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