Which of the sentences is correct?
I don’t know whether you read my previous messages, which I unsent not long ago, ...
I don’t know whether you had read my previous messages, which I unsent not long ago, ...
I don’t know whether you have read my previous messages, which I unsent not long ago, ...

  • I don't recognise this use of to unsend. To me, only the adjectival "past tense" form unsent is valid. I suppose it's possible some modern electronic messaging systems support a "grace period" after initiating a "send" operation, within which time the pending transmission of the message could be countermanded. Slightly weird concept, though - on a par with trying to use a verb like unsay, or uncry. Jan 19, 2022 at 12:50
  • "Unsend" is one of the items in the menu ("Like", "Copy", "Unsend").
    – TrTr
    Jan 19, 2022 at 15:22
  • one of the items in what menu? When I click on "Send" in my Gmail system, the current email is sent immediately. I can't tell how long it takes before that email appears in the recipient's email inbox, or when/if he actually opens it, but even if it was logistically feasible, I find it hard to believe that Google would provide a service to actually remove my email from the recipient's inbox (whether or not he's actually read it). Jan 19, 2022 at 17:31
  • Whatever - if you have a context where it makes sense, that's fine. It's not directly relevant to the aspect you're actually asking about here. Jan 19, 2022 at 17:33
  • Some social networks have such function, including Instagram. It is certainly impossible to "unsend" an email. Thank you for answering my question so quickly, FumbleFingers.
    – TrTr
    Jan 19, 2022 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


Superficially, OP's Past Perfect example #2 looks invalid, but actually it's syntactically fine. It just requires a context where the current "frame of reference" time is already in the past. The speaker may know perfectly well that the recipient has read the messages by now, but doesn't know if they'd done so at some specific narrative reference time in the past. That's not a particularly likely context though, obviously.

But as regards the choice between #1 Past Simple and #3 Present Perfect, I'd say this is on a par with I thought Sarah would behave / would have behaved better as asked here recently. Native speakers don't normally distinguish between these two verb tense forms when referring to "hypothetical / unknown" past situations like this.

Note that read in example #1 is Past Tense, so it's pronounced red (don't confuse it with Present Tense, which is written the same, but pronounced reed).

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