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I want to write a narrative in simple past tense. I have some confusion regarding the usage of past and past perfect tense. Kindly read the below narrative and provide guidance.

He asked me why I didn't call him all day. I said I had been busy all day. I visited/had visited a local temple first thing in the morning. Then I went/had gone to yoga class with Margaret. After class we both went/had gone to a restaurant for a breakfast. I met/had met my boss there.

Kindly explain with tense should I use.

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    Possible duplicate of Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it? Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 12:26
  • The paragraph is a little messy; the first two sentences are in indirect speech, but the remaining are not. Thus, the whole text may have to be reworked. If I were, I would write, " He asked me why I didn't call him all day. I said I was busy all day, because I visited the local temple first (thing) in the morning, and went to yoga class with Margaret. After the class we both went to a restaurant for breakfast, and there, I met my boss."
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 14:38

3 Answers 3

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It would be visited, went, went and met. if you have started a narrative with simple past try to keep the rest in the same tense.

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Past perfect is mainly used to convey a sequence of events. The past perfect implies that one action was finished/was going on before another action. In all cases, simple past may suffice, except in cases where some emphasis of sequence is important.

In your case, the following composition is just fine:

"he asked me why I didn't call him all day. I said I was busy all day. I visited visited a local temple first thing in the morning. Then I went to yoga class with Margaret. After class we both went to a restaurant for a breakfast. I met met my boss there"

However, the second sentence in the following composition emphasizes/clearly establishes a sequence of past events that happened before 'asking'. The speaker is trying to convey that that he was busy every moment up to the moment of 'asking'.

"he asked me why I didn't call him all day. I said I had been busy all day. I visited a local temple first thing in the morning. Then I went to yoga class with Margaret. After class we both went to a restaurant for a breakfast. I met met my boss there".

You do not need past perfect in all events because sequence of events is already clear from sentence to sentence. Please note that past perfect is usually avoided when specific time in the past is mentioned. So, I visited a local....is preferable to I had visited....in the morning.

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Both are possible. It depends on how you want to take the reader through your narrative.

The more natural choice is to use the past perfect: you are conveying to the reader what you told him, and keeping the temporal focus at that time.

If you use the simple past, you are taking the reader through the day with you.

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