The following sentences are from a grammer web site Exercises on Sequence of Tenses See, number 7.

I went to see if she woke up yet.

I went to see if she had woken up yet.

I thought both sentences are ok and acceptable, because there can not be much time between "going to see" and "being awake". So I thought both answers are ok.

However, according to the web site, the 2nd sentence is correct one, saying that "*The past perfect is used to indicate that one action had been completed before another action commenced."

However, as far as I know, in colloquial English, the time distance between "waking up" and "going to see" is not such a big thing to be considered. So, I don't think native speakers would be so strict about it and both sentences can be used.

So, just to confirm, my question is: Is there really a very strict seperation between two sentences, to the extent that the 1st sentence would be considered wrong, or is it simply meticulous grammer perspective?

2 Answers 2


In casual American English, in a situation like the one you described, the formally preferred past perfect may often be ignored, and the simple past used instead when the meaning is clear. This may, or not, be a 'mistake', but it is likely to get you an 'incorrect' mark if you choose it in any formal context, and grammar exercises tend to concentrate on formal English.

Difference in grammar between American and British English

  • 2
    You may even hear people say "...if she had woke up yet." :-/
    – stangdon
    Nov 1, 2022 at 21:25
  • 1
    @stangdon - they do that here, too (Bristol, England). Nov 1, 2022 at 21:48

To my Canadian ears, the first sentence is wrong and the second sentence is correct and natural.

When you decide to go and check, you're expecting that she might already be awake, that's to say, the moment of waking up comes before going to see. "Go" is the simple past, so "wake up" must be past perfect.

The only time it might be kind of acceptable to me is if it's you're explaining what you just did moments before. But if you're telling a story about the past, then it's just wrong.

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