It turned out that what happened was different from what I had expected in my mind.

The resultant situation is something that happened later in time than when you made predictions about the same.

I don't really understand why in the first sentence past perfect is used and in the second past simple. For me both actions the expectations (first sentence) the predictions (second one) came first.

May be the explanation lies in the fact that the first one is past and the second one is present. What is confusing me is "happened" past simple: the predictions came before the happening. So if happened is past simple what came first should be past perfect. That is why I think had made might be better.

This is really confusing!!!!!

  • In the first, I was expecting something and the expectation preceded what happened/ This would be the exact same thing in French. ce qui c'est passé était différent de ce que j'avais imaginé.
    – Lambie
    Nov 18, 2020 at 22:44
  • but in the second sentence the predictions were made also before the situation turned out differently. So in both examples predictions and expectation came first BUT apparently (because of the answer given) the second does not need past perfect as the order of events is clear enough
    – Yves Lefol
    Nov 19, 2020 at 17:17
  • 1
    The second sentence, apart from the verbs is terrible English. Anyway, just like French, nothing stops you using simple past in two different clauses.
    – Lambie
    Nov 19, 2020 at 18:03
  • yes I know you can use simple past in two different clauses but to make clear the order of events I thought past perfect would have been better in this case
    – Yves Lefol
    Nov 19, 2020 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


Despite what you may have been taught, the past perfect is not about the order that events happened.

It is a choice that a speaker or writer makes, to set or maintain a "temporal viewpoint" - to look back on events from some later time.

English speakers often do not bother to use it when that temporal relationship is made clear in some other way.

So in your first sentence, "had expected" indicates that looking back from the time when the speaker had that realisation, their earlier expectations were different. They could have chosen a simple past, in which case there would be no particular temporal viewpoint. (This might have been ambiguous, as it would leave open the possibility that they still had these expectations later).

In the second sentence, "had made" would have been perfectly good; but since the temporal relations are clear, most English speakers would not bother to use it, and would say "made".

  • "Gerry's first experience with a groupie turned out somehow different from what he had in mind " Is it the same with this sentence, are the relations in this sentence clear enough that the second verb doesn't need past perfect or is it because even if the situation turned out differently he had still the same idea that he had from the beginning
    – Yves Lefol
    Nov 18, 2020 at 21:27
  • One concludes that when he had the experience he stopped having the different something in mind, and so, yes there is no practical ambiguity.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 18, 2020 at 22:13
  • @Lambie: I presume there is an error in your examples? Perhaps there was supposed to be had in the second example? If so, then I disagree: same reality, different viewpoint. Or maybe I've misunderstood your intent
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 19, 2020 at 10:18
  • Colin, it is about meaning and is about the order of events the speaker wishes to express. I entered the room after he arrived. AND I entered the room after he had arrived. imply different realities. [Yes, thanks. I have corrected the omission.]
    – Lambie
    Nov 19, 2020 at 12:32
  • @Lambie, I can't see an objective difference.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 19, 2020 at 14:13

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