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Look at this sentence: Before the twentieth century, more than a thousand people tried to reach the pole.

Is the present simple tense used correctly there? It seems (to me) that the past perfect tense should be used instead. If I'm wrong, please, give me an explanation. I'm really confused.

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Past perfect would have been possible but not required. You tend to use past perfect when there is an established narrative at a particular time and then you describe an event that occurred before that time. There is no narrative here. There is just a phrase which describes a past time, and a past tense clause. That is consistent and correct.

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