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I'm sure that I can say:

  • I had eaten an apple before I went to school.

But as the question says, Can I use a specific time?

For example:

  • I had eaten an apple in yesterday morning before I went to school.

Is this correct?

Edit:

Okay, reading from the comments, that word 'when' must have been a typo in my examples.

So, I would like to learn:

Is the past perfect sentence usually formed using a "compound sentence"?
And shall I take it that you cannot use specific time to form any past perfect sentence?

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    None of your sentences is correct. 1- You cannot use both before and when to introduce the subordinate clause, you have to choose one or the other. 2- It's "yesterday morning" (no "in"). – Laure Aug 3 '14 at 7:42
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    For the second sentence, you should use- "I ate an apple yesterday morning before I went to school" For the first one- use either before or when – Manish Giri Aug 3 '14 at 7:43
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One can use the past perfect with an indication of time. It depends on context and what you want to say.

Such as they stand, and without further context, I would not use the past perfect in either of your sentences.

  • I ate an apple before I went to school.

  • I ate an apple yesterday morning before I went to school.

But one can imagine contexts where the past perfect would be possible.

  • I had eaten an apple before I went to school, but I was still hungry when I got there/by the time I got there.

  • I had eaten an apple yesterday morning before I went to school, but I was still hungry when I got there.

In these sentence the past perfect is justified to describe an action (eating an apple) that precedes another action (going to school) in a past context. If nothing in the context specifies that you are talking about a situation in the past then the past perfect is not justified.

It would sound weird to say:

  • I had eaten an apple before I went to school but I'm still hungry.

I'd rather use the simple past:

  • I ate an apple before I went to school but I'm still hungry.

The past perfect expresses the idea that one action occurred before another action in the past.

Time indication is perfectly acceptable with the past perfect and could be an actual time of course:

  • I had eaten an apple at half past seven before I went to school, but I was still hungry when I got there.
  • I see that you used past perfect in examples made up of two sentences. Is it never really used in one sentence? Perhaps, to give a simplified example? – user92131 Aug 3 '14 at 8:17
  • I've just replaced the full stop with a comma for more transparency. it doesn't change anything. What I was trying to tell you is that the past perfect is used only in relation to a previous action, if you do not express this previous action (your examples) the past perfect is not justified. – Laure Aug 3 '14 at 8:22
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    But.. Is going to school after eating an apple doesn't represent another action? In your example, the state of being hungry is another action. – user92131 Aug 3 '14 at 10:12
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    So, I don't understand how is it not suffice to say just "I had eaten an apple yesterday morning before I went to school." Since as you said "The past perfect expresses the idea that one action occurred before another action in the past.". The first action in this case is you ate the apple and second is you went to school. But being hungry seems to be the third action which sounds unnecessary to grammatically put a past perfect sentence. – user92131 Aug 3 '14 at 10:24
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    I guess I can see the difference. Here, we are talking about the present situation of being hungry using the simple past while when we used past perfect it was used to say the state of being in hungry in past tense. So, we just added more context. I'm still having some trouble after seeing the examples on this page which are quite similar to mine but they don't talk about any necessity of having a context. – user92131 Aug 3 '14 at 11:03

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