So, I'm not sure which one of these sentences is more grammatically correct.

The last one had just been sold before I got there.

The last one had been sold just before I got there.

I'm 99% sure both of them are perfectly fine, it's just that the second sentence sounds more natural to me despite "just" not being between "had" and "been".

I would greatly appreciate if someone would be so nice as to tell me whether or not both of them are correct, and if so it would be nice to know what's the difference. Is it a matter of idiomaticness, emphasis, maybe it's a BE vs AE thing, or perhaps one is just more casual than the other?

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    I'm quite certain that by far the "most idiomatic" form would be Simple Past The last one was sold just before I got there. As ever, don't assume that just because you could use a Past Perfect form, it's a good idea to actually do so. But as regards the position of adverbial just in the context of a "compound" verb form such as had been, it's essentially just a stylistic choice whether you interpose it between the two elements, or put it after both of them (you'd rarely want to put the adverb before both verb components). Sep 10, 2021 at 17:22
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    "Had just been sold when I got there" or "had been sold just before I got there". Sep 10, 2021 at 17:34
  • @FumbleFingers Yeah I agree, Simple Past seems more reasonable, but this sentence comes from a textbook so I guess the usage of Past Perfect is justified. Anyways, thanks for helping me out.
    – Oktalz
    Sep 10, 2021 at 17:34
  • If you ask me, it's "textbooks" that are responsible for the fact that vast numbers on non-native Anglophones end up overusing Past Perfect. One way or another, they often seem to give the impression that if you can justify using a Perfect form, you should use it. But that's usually not true. Sep 11, 2021 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


Both are grammatically correct, with no difference in register. You can use either. The second construction sounds a bit more natural/logical perhaps (see Kate Bunting's comment).

For reference, see Ngrams: this, this, this - but there aren't a lot of hits, and there's a word limit to the string(s), so these results aren't completely reliable.

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