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Is it correct to say:

  1. John was born decades after the death of his grandfather.

or

  1. John had been born decades after the death of his grandfather?

I remember learning that "had been" was a relative term (as in relating to some other event), whereas "was" generally refers to some past event. Is that correct? If so, then which one is more appropriate?

  • 2
    Both grammatically correct. Like you say 'had been' is relative, which means usually in context it needs a simple past to be contrasted with,e.g. Jone never knew his mother's father. He had been born decades after the death of his grandfather. If a simple chronological narrative, the other version should be used. – S Conroy Aug 16 at 16:35
  • The previous comment is incorrect. The past perfect refers to a past action that occurred before another previous past action, not after. A specific sequence is implied. "John was born after his gradfather had died" not "John had been born after his grandfather died." – Jeff Morrow Aug 17 at 15:02
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There are two past activities here
1. John was born
2. His grandfather died

Out of these two activities, the activity which happened earlier is John's grandfather's death. So the first activity should be in the past perfect but not the second.

The correct sentence is:

John was born decades after his grandfather's death

This sentence means that John was born decades after his grandfather had died.

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