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If, for example, I write that some territory belonged to some country until 1954, should I use Past Perfect ('had belonged')? Is it optional?

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You should use past perfect tense when you are describing a series of events in the past. For example, if you consider describing what happened after 1954, then you must use past perfect tense, provided you are speaking about/related to the same concept or story-line.

The territory had belonged to the Empire until 1954, after which it went into the hands of the barbarians.

If you wish to depict/describe only a single event in the past, then you must consider using simple past tense.

The territory belonged to the Empire until 1954.

For more reference and examples, you can read this article.

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  • Whether it's one or two separate sentences doesn't matter, does it? – Sergey Zolotarev Oct 4 '20 at 19:28
  • No, it doesn't. You can have two to three sentences one after the other, but in the same paragraph while writing a story or developing script. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Oct 4 '20 at 19:31
  • Is it obligatory? You used the word 'should' – Sergey Zolotarev Oct 5 '20 at 6:49
  • Well, if you look at it that way, it is not an obligation, more like a suggestion, a good one at that. I should probably change the modal verb from "should" to "could". – Dhanishtha Ghosh Oct 5 '20 at 8:16
  • Actually it is more of a grammatical sense than obligatory statement. Hence I think it would be highly confusing for fellow users to understand the concept if I replace should with could. Then most of the people will not adapt the correct usage. Hence I shall keep it the same. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Oct 5 '20 at 8:20

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