Just take a look at these sentences:

A: "You got arrested for driving under influence?"
B: "Yes . It happened a few days after my wife (had) told me that she wanted to separate, so I wasn't myself at the time."

Would this be more natural with 'had' ?

  • 1
    No, adding "had" would be wrong here. But you could say "Yes. My wife had just told me (a few days earlier) that she wanted to separate..."
    – TypeIA
    Dec 27 '20 at 16:02
  • 2
    Idiomatically, that's driving under the influence [of alcohol or other intoxicants]. But I disagree that there's anything "syntactically incorrect" about using Past Perfect (had) here. Both are fine - it's just that in practice, Simple Past is more likely. Come to that, it wouldn't be "incorrect" to express the initial It had happened... using the Perfect form - that's just very unlikely (and would require a rather contrived context to become the preferred choice of tense). Dec 27 '20 at 16:11

I mean, maybe a little bit. The use of "had" pushes the action a little further into the past, which creates distance and therefore a little more detachment, but I wouldn't say especially neutral.

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