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The book Practical English Usage by Michael Swan says that the sentence

When I had opened the windows, I sat down and had a cup of tea.

is more natural than

When I opened the windows, I sat down and had a cup of tea.

because the first action is separate from the second. But I cannot see how it is separate. The same is with

When I opened the window, the cat jumped out.

When I had opened the window, the cat jumped out.

In this pair of sentences, however, it says that the first one is more natural. And it also says that it should be

When I had answered my emails, I did some gardening.

not

When I answered my emails, I did some gardening.

Why? Help me please to see the difference.

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    Possible duplicate of Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it? Short answer: If you don't need a Perfect form, you probably don't want it. In your case, when can often mean while, at the same time as, so it's natural to use the Perfect to clarify the sequence (if you change when to after there's no reason to use it, so most people wouldn't bother with the unnecessarily complex Perfect form). – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '19 at 12:16
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  • When I opened the window, I had a cup of tea.

That is logically odd since having a cup of tea cannot take place at the same time as or as the result of opening the window. It is not about being natural, it is about being logical.

Whereas:

1) When I opened the window, the cat jumped out. That is a result. Similar to after.

2) When I had opened the window, the cat jumped out.

In 2) there are two actions with different timings and they would emphasize that as long as the window was closed, the cat could not jump out of it.

  • No, he didn't jump out until I had opened the window all the way.

The cat jumping out is the result of your opening the window.

You want to make sure that the actions make sense in terms of semantics and a timeline.

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