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I am not quite sure yet but is it mandatory to use the Past perfect when clarifying which action occurred first by using signal words such as "before" and "after", or would it be grammatically correct if I were to use the past simple instead?

He had asked me for help before you did.(Past perfect)
He asked me for help before you did. (Past simple)

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  • Native speakers use the two tenses interchangeably all the time. The choice depends on context and preference. For instance: 1.(He is missing or dead) He had asked me for help before you did. 2.(He is with me) He asked me for help before you did. Nov 30 '20 at 22:08
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The past perfect is (almost) never mandatory in English. When it is used it can help to define the order of events, or contrast one event with another. But it is rarely required and in this case you could use either.

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