It was Sunday afternoon. I was watching the TV when I realized how hungry I was. But of course I was hungry; I had not eaten anything since lunch, and I ran a race in the morning. "Biscuits!" I thought. My mother gave me a delicious jar of home made biscuits. So I went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and poured some milk in a big glass.

Don't you think it should be had run and had given because both events happened before lunch (at least for the race) and writing "gave" gave the impression that the biscuits were given after he thought "biscuits!". We can suppose that the biscuits were given for the race just before or after it .

Or as with the first past perfect we already know the events happened before Sunday afternoon and as all events are written in the order they happened :first the race then the biscuits given, there is no need of past perfect?but I find it confusing


  • 1
    I agree with your logic. The point about "gave" illustrates why it's so important to mind the sequence of tenses. Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 9:28

2 Answers 2


You're right. To the first instance, the simple past timeline of this narration is "Saturday afternoon". Anything that happens before that should be in past perfect. Further, if past perfect "had run" represents lunch time, then simple past "ran" cannot represent a time even earlier than lunch (the morning).

With "gave", again, the simple past timeline is at "...I thought", on Saturday afternoon. It's unlikely that the instant they thought "Biscuits" their mother magically handed him a jar of homemade biscuits. So it must have happened earlier, which means it has to be past perfect.

Everything in red is the narration (Saturday afternoon), so it's simple past. Everything that happens before that point in the narration is purple, and must be past perfect.


Arguably, you are correct that "had run" would be appropriate here (particularly since it had just previously used "had not eaten", so there would be better parallelism and it would probably sound a bit better, IMHO). However, there really is no confusion in this case, since it is pretty clear from the context when the different events occurred, since it says explicitly "since lunch" and "in the morning". Given this, either past tense or past perfect are both fine, and there is nothing actually wrong with just using "ran" (except that it might sound a bit better the other way, but that's a matter of opinion).

There is potentially some ambiguity with "gave". This could be read to mean that the speaker's mother gave the biscuits to them previously, or that it occurred at the same time as their thought of "buscuits!" occurred, but logically it doesn't make a lot of sense for somebody to just think "biscuits!" and then completely coincidentally right after that somebody to hand them some, so it seems much more likely that the biscuits had been given previously, which was therefore the reason for that to come to mind. Thus, arguably, past perfect is not really needed here either, though again it would be perfectly correct (and perhaps slightly more clear) to use "had given" instead.

So basically in both these cases I don't think there's a lot of ambiguity, so using either the simple past or the past perfect are both fine (but I personally would probably use the past perfect for both anyway, as I just think it sounds a bit better).

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