How about using the past tense published instead?

She had published her first poem by the time she was eight.

3 Answers 3


In this sentence the girl's turning eight is already in the past and the publishing of the poem preceded this, so the use of "had published" is correct. Using just the past tense does not properly express this sequence of events.


The past perfect is justified because the action of "had published" occurs before the action of "was". However, when events are mentioned in chronological order, the same tense may be used. For example:

I did some shopping before I went to the movies.

Thus, your sentence could be:

She published her first poem by the time she was eight.


This is a question of style. 'Had published' is technically correct, but it sounds strange to my ear, as if it came from an English language textbook for foreign students. I try to be as brief as possible in writing and speaking English. I would say 'she published her first poem by the time she was eight' No need to hammer home the past tense.

I have a background in law, newspaper editing and Russian language. As a result, I try to use as few words as possible and minimal punctuation. I will strip a sentence of as many prepositions and articles (the, a, an) as I can. I have a dislike of 'that' and 'which' and other connecting words. I try to keep it simple. I recommend reading 'The Elements of Style' by William Strunk and E.R. White, the classic guide to writing style.

  • Nothing at all strange about it. May 19, 2022 at 7:55

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