This is not a "help me do my homework" question. The quiz has been graded and I'm merely looking for an explanation.

I came across this question in a school quiz

I arrived late. I _____________ the road to be so icy.

A. hadn't expected B. wasn't expecting

The correct answer given is A.

I feel like it should be B. However, the teacher explained that, as "I arrived late" talks about something in the past, the action of "expect" takes place in "the past of the past". Thus, "hadn't" needs to be used to signal that. So A should be the correct answer.

B sounds more natural to me, but I can't find an explanation in proper grammar.

I'm also wondering whether "didn't expect" is correct. It wasn't in the options, but someone proposed it in class and I felt it also makes sense to some extent.

  • Both are correct but they are looking for B because the past perfect is always used to show something that precedes something in the simple past, in fact or implied. This question has been answered tons of times in this forum. By the way, we don't do homework here.,
    – Lambie
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:36
  • @Lambie It's not a homework. I'm just asking it after it had been graded because I'm not convinced by the explanation. The answer is A btw.
    – Lily White
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:48
  • School quiz, homework. Same idea. What I said is accurate. Both are correct. [It wasn't homework, not "a" homework.]
    – Lambie
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:51
  • B carries the implication "[When I set out] I wasn't expecting the road to be so icy", and is quite natural but, as Lambie says, they are probably testing your understanding of the past perfect here. Jan 5, 2023 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


I arrived late. I _____________ the road to be so icy.

A. hadn't expected B. wasn't expecting

Transform the tense of the two sentences and two answers into the present:

  • I arrive late. I _____________ the road to be so icy.
  • A. haven't expected B. am not expecting

And then compare:

  • I arrive late. I haven't expected the road to be so icy.
  • I arrive late. I am not expecting the road to be so icy.

"I arrive late" happens now, just as you arrive.

  • In the first case you are explaining why you arrive late.
  • In the second case it doesn't make sense for you now to be expecting anything about the road, since you're already at your destination.

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