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I am writing a short story where the speaker is extremely exhausted and yet is forced to sit through a class. I want to open with the following sentence: My brain had officially shut down as soon as the professor wrote “Structure of Glucose” on the board. The meaning I am trying to convey is that less than a while back, but just now, the lecturer wrote "structure of glucose" on the board and that right then, the speaker's brain shut down. I am not sure if the tenses are correct for the purpose. Please let me know if they are or do suggest a better pair of tenses to go with.

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  • Why officially? It's hard to see how the word applies. While you sentence is fine, the expression the moment that is a strong contender for your purpose.. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 8:47

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The tense you are using had shut down (past perfect) does not sound natural in the context of your sentence. Think about it in terms of a timeline. Consider that there are two events:

Event A: the professor wrote something
Event B: my brain shut down

The past perfect is usually used in the clause talking about something earlier, rather than later. By using the Past Perfect, you are telling us that B happened first, and then A happened. So if "my brain shut down" happened first, what is the connection to the professor? The intended meaning is not quite clear. Here is an example of how to use it to clarify the sequence of events:

My brain had already shut down by the time the professor even started his lecture.

In this case, the Past Perfect is appropriate because Event A (my brain shut down) happened before Event B (the professor started his lecture), and implies that you were not mentally prepared for the difficult lecture.

If you want to say that Event A and Event B happened at exactly the same time (no cause and effect), then you still should not use the Past Perfect since it establishes a relative timeline. You could change it to something like this:

Just as the professor wrote on the board, my brain shut down.

On a side note, your use of 'officially' is quite interesting. It sounds a little unnatural to me but it's difficult to explain why. I think it might be that 'officially' is often used as a kind of emphatic way to present a logical conclusion, after you have listed some reasons. Consider this article, titled "I am Officially Sick of COVID-19". The writer talks about many different reasons which caused this non-literal 'officially' feeling. Maybe the reason your use sounds wrong to me is that there are no causes presented beforehand. You might need to explain a few causes when claiming the final conclusion of 'officially ...".

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  • Yeah I thought there was something wrong with the sentence. I am gonna change "officially" to "practically" Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 16:59
  • I recommend using the simple past tense too, "my brain practically shut down as soon as..."
    – kandyman
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 17:45
  • Sure, I already made that change. Can you share other pairs of tenses which indicate immediate succession of two events in future, present and in other moods as well. Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 3:09

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