Somebody I am currently tutoring has the following question in a work book:

I was taught that Shakespeare ( ? ) in 1616

a) had died
b) died
c) has died
d) dies

The correct answer marked in the book is (b) "died". However, I am unsure of the reasoning. As far as I can tell "had died" and "died" (a and b) should both be grammatically correct and work in this context. But I was wondering how to explain why the book chose this over the other.

  • It wouldn't be particularly common, but it's perfectly okay to "backshift" to had died in your exact context (because you've already invoked the past with I was taught). Without that prior past tense context, as in - I know that Shakespeare had died in 1616, it would not be acceptable to use the Past Perfect form. Basically, your textbook isn't very good. Jan 25, 2022 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


I agree with you that both (a) and (b) are possible answers.

As a simple statement of fact, we would use (b). However, this sentence is a bit more complex. You could say "I always thought that Shakespeare had died in 1615, but my teacher says it was 1616."

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