Which one of the two is more idiomatic

When he had lost the book he searched for it everywhere.

When he lost the book he searched for it everywhere.

I think the first one

Because in the first one perfect tense is used and it shows sequence of events.

For example

The train had left when he reached the station.


1 Answer 1


The past perfect ('had lost') is usually used to refer back to an even earlier time than is being discussed. In your example, this is not necessary since the event of losing the books triggered the immediate action of searching. It's not about some event which happened even earlier than losing the book. Therefore, When he lost the book, he searched for it everywhere sounds more natural.

By the way, neither of these are idioms. An idiom is a group of words in which the literal meaning of those words doesn't correspond to the meaning of the overall phrase. In your examples, 'lost the book' is being used in the literal sense.

  • More idiomatic is After he (had) lost the book...... Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 10:27
  • What is idiomatic about "After he had lost the book..."? I see only a literal meaning.
    – kandyman
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 9:27
  • When refers to the moment he lost the book. After refers some time later. So while people may search for things the moment they lose them, most are not even aware that the items are missing until they notice the loss some time later - when they search for them. For this reason, I suggest the use of after in such contexts - although I have no argument against the use of when if that it was is meant. It's a matter of nuance and context rather than grammar. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 14:56

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