I am writing about my childhood. Which tense should I use?

I only played outdoor games. My friend once took me to his home and made me play the video game Mario.

A.Before I played Mario, I was under the impression that all video games were violent.

B.Before I had played Mario, I had been under the impression that all video games were violent.

But this experience changed my thinking completely.

  • Both A and B are fine.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 20:20

2 Answers 2


It largely depends on the "voice" of your writing, which is a subjective, stylistic decision. In isolation, either statement reads fine to me, and would be reasonably understood.

If you are already writing in the past tense, I would probably use the past-perfect tense in option B. You might specifically use this form more in a third-person fictional account, to describe a past event that happened to a character that you were already speaking about in the past.

However, autobiographical writing tends to evoke a less-formal style, which might lend itself better to the conciseness of option A.

If this is an exam question, I'm not sure I'd get it right, even as a native speaker (albeit not an academic). I am leaning towards option B, since the surrounding text is already in the past tense, while the choices describe an opinion held before the event of that surrounding text, and that is typically the distinction between how past and past-perfect is used.

The tag past-vs-past-perfect, which was added by an editor, has many, many more examples.


To my ear, the most logical, or suitable usage/sequence of actions would be:

Before I played the video game, I had been under the impression that all video games were violent. (The auxiliary in the independent clause, ...I had been [under]..., the past perfect is not necessary, it is rather advisory. So I have no problem saying: ...I was under... );

However, your second example is not incorrect. But in this case, I would not try overemphasizing the perfect aspect. Conversational English tends to be more colloquial and clear. Therefore, I prefer the usage written above.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .