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Which sentence is better?

I've always trusted Peter before.

I've always trusted Peter until now.

Now I don't trust him; I've just found he cheated on me.

I think "before" is more natural than "until now", because I often see this usage. I've almost never seen the usage of "until now".

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    Perhaps "I had always trusted Peter before/until now" is also worth considering.
    – towr
    Jan 4, 2022 at 15:15
  • [find out is the idiom]
    – Lambie
    Jan 4, 2022 at 17:24
  • It's surprising that you haven't seen "until now" often, since both "have not ✻ before" and have not ✻ until now are almost equally common in Google results.
    – user21820
    Jan 5, 2022 at 5:01

3 Answers 3

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There are subtle differences between the two and their meanings change depending on their primary and secondary emphasis.

"I've always trusted Peter before" means you would consider trusting him again.

"I've always trusted Peter before" means you are now doubting his trustworthiness.

"I've always trusted Peter until now" means you no longer trust him.

Another possibility would be:

"I've always trusted Peter before (or until now)." This means you have some misgivings about trusting someone else.

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    An additional subtlety is that "I've always trusted Peter before" suggests a discrete series of events in which you trusted Peter and you are now looking at trusting him for another event (and as you say the emphasis matters). "I've always trusted Peter until now" suggests that the trusting was something always there and that an event has just happened that has removed that trust.
    – Readin
    Jan 4, 2022 at 6:48
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    Since 'before' points to an event in the past, I'd probably say either 'I had always trusted Peter before [he was arrested for fraud]' or 'I have always trusted Peter until now [that he has been arrested for fraud, or now that you have asked me]'. Jan 4, 2022 at 10:50
  • @Old Brixtonian: Thank you very much, though they're really hard for me to digest. "'I've always trusted Peter before' means you would consider trusting him again". Why this interpretation? Here is my guess: I'm now thinking of whether to trust Peter again. I used to always trust him and always got good results, so I'll trust him again. In the sentence, "before" implies "before this instance of considering whether to trust him or not". But, why can't "before" imply "before having just found he had cheated on me", why can't the sentence mean I used to always trust him, but now I don't?
    – Stephen
    Jan 4, 2022 at 14:25
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    @Stephen: Your guess is perfect! So... "why can't before imply 'before having just found out he had cheated on me'"? Context! The word "before" might refer to anything that's just happened. Perhaps a mutual friend has just asked if you trust Peter to look after your flat while you're away. You say, "I've always trusted Peter before." meaning he has sometimes looked after your flat before. BUT if the friend has just told you Peter was once accused of arson, you might say the same words in horror! Suddenly you don't trust him! Btw, Note the words consider and doubting in my answer. Jan 4, 2022 at 18:32
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    @Stephen: Do read all the comments. They're are all useful! Jan 4, 2022 at 18:36
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This is the primary purpose of the past perfect tense: to describe an event that had occurred, that is to say it happened in the past tense and stopped happening in the past tense (i.e. no longer occurs in the present tense).

For example,

I had always trusted Peter.

Or, using the contraction form in the OP

I'd always trusted Peter.

Always seems redundant (likely used for empasis) so can be omitted

I had trusted Peter.

Or contraction form

I'd trusted Peter.

With the exception of irregular forms, past perfect tense uses 'had' with the past tense of the verb (e.g. 'had trusted'). Slight modofication from the 'have' you have in the OP which interprets the sentence in present perfect tense.

You can also omit the 'had' and use a temporal modifier such as 'before', which is also past perfect tense:

I trusted Peter before.

Note the absence of 'had' or 'have'.

You can use a more specific temporal modifier as well

I trusted Peter yesterday.

But do not combine the temporal modifier with 'had'.

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  • What is wrong with using a temporal modifier with 'had'? "I trusted Peter yesterday" doesn't imply anything about today. "I had trusted Peter yesterday" seems to imply the trust no longer exists. Am I missing something?
    – Brandon
    Jan 4, 2022 at 20:32
  • @Brandon It is redundant. Additionally, "I trusted Peter yesterday" and "I trusted Peter" are sentences with different meanings. The first implies that the trust was yesterday (started in the past, ended in the past). The latter does not implies that trust has been revoked (simple past tense). Similarly, "I trusted Peter" and "I trusted Peter today" have two different meanings.
    – uberhaxed
    Jan 4, 2022 at 20:41
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Emphasis can definitely change the meaning of either sentence, or likely, any sentence. To me, however, the primary difference—at least written, without formatting to indicate emphasis—between these two sentences is that “until now” expresses a firm and final limit on the time being discussed. Where “before” is somewhat more neutral, suggesting it was true in the past, but not necessarily that it is no longer true or won’t be true in the future.

So for your purpose, I’d say “until now” is more fitting.

But, particularly in context, or with emphasis, it’s unlikely that either phrasing would be misunderstood. Even at its most neutral, “I’ve always trusted Peter before,” does not sound confident in the speaker’s ability to continue trusting Peter in this instance.¹

  1. Unless, as Old Brixtonian suggests, context or emphasis suggests that the concern in this sentence is more on “Peter,” vs. someone else—this sentence could easily be used in response to someone suggesting the speaker trust someone other than Peter, without necessarily meaning they should stop trusting Peter. Maybe Peter isn’t even relevant to the conversation and the sense here is more “Well, I’ve always trusted Peter before, and that worked out, so now I can trust you, too,” or something. But it would take context to build up that kind of meaning.

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