1. Did you find out who was behind that action?
  2. Did you find out who had been behind that action?

So Past Perfect refers to events that happened before the main event. So i think 2 is correct but 1 is used rather than 2. Then why is 1 correct?

3 Answers 3


If you use the past perfect "Did you find out who had been behind that action", you are choosing to refer to the events relative to some focus point in the past.

I emphasise "choosing", because in many cases this is a completely free choice.

Sometimes, if you don't, clarity will be compromised because the sequence of events is important, and might not be clear.

But often, it makes no difference to the clarity whether you bring in that temporal focus or not. And indeed, native speakers often do not bother with the past perfect when the meaning is clear without it.

  • Thanks for answering. I was confused because of "Did". Also can you tell me what are you refering to when you say "without".
    – ikigai20
    Sep 22, 2019 at 13:51
  • @lollel123: I edited to add the missing word "it". The Did doesn't change anything: the past perfect could be used, but is not required when it's clear without it.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 22, 2019 at 13:55
  • So there is this sentence. "I killed the guy who killed my friend." The guy i am referring to killed my friend before I killed him, it is obvious. But we dont have to use past perfect because I merely introduced that the fact that he killed my friend and therefore is not related to the main verb. Am I Correct?
    – ikigai20
    Sep 22, 2019 at 14:04
  • That's right. The sequence is unambiguous, so you don't have to make it explicit.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 22, 2019 at 15:25

first sentence belong to past perfect,and second one belong to past perfect continous

  • The OP is asking why (1) is correct... I think the answer should depend on the context which the OP should provide?
    – shin
    Sep 23, 2019 at 8:48

the first sentence looks back to the past from the present and the second sentence looks back from the past to a point further back in the past.

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