I was very happy and surprised after I opened your parcel because inside was a copy of the "Paperniks" single. In your last email you wrote that it was sold out.

Do we understand that the last email happened before I was happy and surprised or would it be better to leave the ambiguity to use past perfect. It is not obvious that the last email occurred before my surprise. I think it is clearer with past perfect but both tenses seem good. What do you think about it?

  • I'm leaving this open because although the question sounds like it might be a request for proofreading, it's clearly "focused on something in particular" --in this case particular verb tenses-- rather than a request for "finding and correcting errors or improving the phrasing", as the close note says.
    – gotube
    Mar 9, 2022 at 23:37

1 Answer 1


This seems like a repeat of your last question in some ways. Yes, past perfect is a good choice here. No, past simple is not confusing because the context explains (you were happy and surprised because you hadn't expected to get it; I disagree with you and would say it is obvious that the email came before the surprise). So you could use simple past, but why not use past perfect?

Note, I wouldn't say "I was very happy and surprised after I opened your parcel"; I would probably say "when." It's true that one might say that opening it is the moment in which you cut the tape and open the box, and that the surprise came a moment later, but "opening a box" can refer to the entire process, and those two moments are very close together in time.

  • Strictly speaking about meaning what does the past perfect add to it? the connection is obvious ?
    – Yves Lefol
    Feb 23, 2022 at 17:39
  • In this case it adds nothing, since the order is obvious. In some other example, in which the order were not obvious... it would save the day! Feb 23, 2022 at 17:41
  • 2
    @AndyBonner I applaud your distinction between the use of after and when. It's a bugbear of mine to hear the constant lazy use of after on the media, as in: 10 people were killed after the plane crashed. I always want to ask the writer how long after? Feb 23, 2022 at 19:16

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