"Luckily he had brought a bottle of barbecue sauce with him to the barbecue, and he ____________ (survive) by drinking water mixed with barbecue sauce."

The test says only "survived" is correct in this blank.

I don't understand why it is not had survived because at the time of writing when he was found the survival was completely ended BUT it is true that this event is obviously before he was found (no confusion can be made)


  • Survival only ends with death. Jul 25, 2021 at 10:23
  • He survived and BEFORE he had brought etc. The past perfect always precedes another action in the past. For example: Before I arrived, they had finished dinner.
    – Lambie
    Apr 15 at 19:18
  • Does this answer your question? Can past simple past works too
    – Lambie
    Apr 15 at 19:20

4 Answers 4


There seems to be a sequence of events told in chronological order.

"He survived" is one of these events told in chronological order

You do not usually use past perfect for events in a narrative that are told in chronological order.

  • 1
    but why not "had survived" because the at the time of writing the man was rescued
    – Yves Lefol
    Jul 25, 2021 at 10:39
  • The main part of any sentence is rarely in past perfect. "He survived by drinking water mixed with barbecue sauce" is in the past (simple) from now. "He had brought" is before "he survived", so is in the past perfect from now.
    – Sydney
    Jul 25, 2021 at 10:44
  • Look at the present tense narrative. It is all chronological. You don't use past perfect just because one event was before another. You use it when an event is out of chronological order. "survived" did not occur out of order in the narrative. You don't use past perfect.
    – James K
    Jul 25, 2021 at 10:56
  • In my opinion it wouldn't definitely be wrong to use had survived (when found, he was still alive), but, as James says, as part of the simple narrative survived is sufficient. Jul 25, 2021 at 12:45
  • what do you mean by part of the simple narrative ?. Is it because there is a causality between the bringing of the sauce and the surviving that survived is past simple . He had brought the sauce that is why he survived. In your first example it seems obvious that he bought the bread when he was in the shop not after he came home so past perfect for me is not necessary
    – Yves Lefol
    Jul 25, 2021 at 15:56

Any indicative tense will fit grammatically into that blank - depending on the meaning one wishes to attach, and what comes next - i.e. in the next sentence. .

Past tense: - "he survived" - a simple statement of something concluded.

Present perfect: - "he has survived" - meaning he has so far survived, but possibly that happy state of affairs may not continue.

Past perfect: "he had survived" - might be used if the next sentence went on to say that something subsequently happened - e.g. he was struck by a bolt of lightning.

Future: "he will survive" - a prediction of what will happen.

Future perfect: "he will have survived" - e.g. by the time the rescuers arrive.

Conditional: "he could survive" - e.g.provided he is in robust health to start with.

Conditional perfect: "he could have survived" - e.g. if only he had been able to get the top off the bottle.

Imperfect: "he was surviving" - e.g. but one couldn't expect him to survive much longer.

And finally - the simple present tense and/or the present continuous - "he survives", or "he is surviviving".


The suggested test answer is correct: just the past simple "survived".

You should use the past simple here because his survival comes after he brought the sauce. The past perfect is used to speak of a time before the past, so it's further back in time. You can think of it like something happening in the past of the past. He survived (in the past), because he had brought some BBQ sauce (before the survival event). He had to bring the sauce first, before he could use it as a survival aid.

However, it's not impossible to use "had survived" here, since there could be other events later in the story describing what happened after his survival. However, since there is no further context given, the default answer here would be to just use the past simple "survived". We don't use the past perfect in English unless there's a good reason to do so. It has to fit with the sequence of events. If you begin talking about something using the past perfect, people will expect to hear what happened next, after that.


"Had survived" is the correct answer.

At that point in the simple past narrative, the event of "finding" him had already happened, so "surviving" by drinking the barbecue sauce was finished -- the moment he's found by the rescue team, he's no longer "surviving", at least not on barbecue sauce. This means any reference to the days he spent surviving requires the past perfect tense.

For what it's worth, most ESL study material I've found online has been flawed in one way or another, so I'm not at all surprised. It's hastily made, and not reviewed again.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .