I found the correct answer of an English exercise very confusing and I am not sure if both are correct or I am just being an idiot.

Why is

  • She was taken to the hospital last night, because she fell off the stairs and hurt herself badly.

incorrect, and why is

  • She was taken to the hospital last night, because she had fallen off the stairs and hurt herself badly.


  • 1
    Hello, Dean. // Your second variant certainly seems to use the timeframes set by the verb phrases more logically, but the first, less logical variant, is far more idiomatic. Practised Anglophones avoid the past perfect unless it's absolutely necessary. Here, as pragmatics (the way the language is actually used) and logic inform us that the fall came before the journey to hospital, the first variant will almost always be chosen. In fact, using the second variant hints strongly at a considerable delay. Oct 18, 2021 at 18:24
  • Does this answer your question? Tricky Past Perfect Tense Oct 18, 2021 at 18:29
  • It's because in a standard grammar exercise the fall preceded her being taken to the hospital.
    – Lambie
    Oct 18, 2021 at 18:51
  • Very strictly, and this is what the setter probably had in mind, the action of falling was completed before she was taken to hospital so the past perfect is indicated. However in normal speech (as @EdwinAshworth says) the two forms are pretty much interchangeable most of the time.
    – BoldBen
    Oct 19, 2021 at 7:02
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it? Apr 8, 2023 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


Both answers are grammatically correct.

In the context of a narrative you might prefer the second one as it explicitly places the fall before going to hospital.

But grammatically the past perfect is not required, and the first structure is probably more common when (as in this example) there is no danger of confusion.

  • 1
    Poor examiners/exam moderators would probably demand the latter of the variants, while in practice 90+% of native speakers wouldn't. Oct 19, 2021 at 10:30

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