Here is a paragraph from a school English textbook for high school students in Taiwan.

Apart from its natural splendor, Kyoto has so much more to feast one's eyes on. Having previously been the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, the city boasts a large number of historic shrines and temples.

According to the textbook, the second sentence is reduced from the adverbial clause:

Because the city had previously been the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, it boasts a large number....

I wonder whether the full form of the clause should be in the simple past:

Because the city was previously the capital of Japan for over a thousand years, it boasts a large number...

In the first and second paragraph, no information regarding other capitals of Japan before or after Kyoto is mentioned, so I wonder why the textbook says the second sentence is originally in the past perfect tense. I think the past simple should suffice.

  • It's misleading to suggest that second sentence is somehow "reduced" from an alternative phrasing. As it happens, the (syntactically optional) initial having been adverbial clause does indeed give a reason for the assertion that follows, so because is part of an accurate rephrasing for that exact context. But that wouldn't be true with syntactically identical contexts such as Having been known as "Peking" for many decades, the city now goes by the name "Beijing" - where because would make no sense at all. Oct 31, 2022 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


I agree with you, and I think the textbook is wrong. We would say "Kyoto was", because it's an event in the past, without any other time reference in the sentence.

"Kyoto had been" implies that it was in the past before another event in the past, and we don't see any other reference to an event in the past. Had been would only be used in a sentence like "When Commodore Perry came to Japan, Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for over one thousand years."

  • Thank you very much for answering my question, stangdon. It helps me understand how to use the past perfect even better. Many thanks.
    – Shiny Jade
    Nov 2, 2022 at 3:03

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