Can you please explain the use of two perfect tenses in one sentence with 'since'? The sentence is original and is taken from R.J. Palacio's book 'Wonder'

"It had been a long time since I'd been out without my hearing aids, and it felt like I was miles under the earth."

According to traditional rules we would have to use past simple after 'since'? Is that any special case?

  • Where did you learn your "traditional rules"? This is the past perfect tense, which you can also use with since. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 13:23
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    Take any grammar book and you'll find out that 90% of them do not explain the use of past perfect after since. Would you offer a better grammar book where I can read this rule&
    – Natalia
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 14:07
  • I can't easily search grammar books with Google, but The Cambridge Dictionary does say that you can of past perfect after "since". In this case, you need the past perfect after "since" because the main clause is in the past perfect. Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 14:26
  • Yes, I saw that example in the Cambridge Dictionary but it's really difficult to understand the meaning of two past perfects together as the basic meaning implies that the action in the past perfect is viewed as prior one to another action in the past.
    – Natalia
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 11:46
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    @Natalie: you would put all the verbs in one sentence in the past perfect to show they happened before a verb in another sentence. Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 11:52

1 Answer 1


I believe there is no need for replacing it with the past simple, or for providing any alternatives.

Note that if you try to backshift the initial, present-time sentence you will get this one.

"It had been a long time since I'd been out without my hearing aids, and it felt like I was miles under the earth."

The mixture of tenses, or however you would like to call it, is used correctly.

It doesn't bear some specific meaning in comparison with the past simple in the "since" clause.

But to my ear, I suppose the speaker didn't intend to use the past simple because he could not remember the exact time of the action. That said, the clause implies - unspecified time -

I hope this answer helps you clear up your confusion :)

  • Thanks a lot! Now I understand!
    – Natalia
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 14:04
  • I don't understand what "initial, present-time sentence" you've "backshifted". Your sentence is word-for-word identical with the use in the question. And there's not a mixture of tenses here.
    – BadZen
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 18:16

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