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What is the difference in meaning between the two sentences below?

1.When I saw her, she was near that place.
2.When I saw her, she had been near that place.

In the first sentence we have Past Simple+Past Simple. In the second sentence we have Past Simple +Past Perfect Simple .

I found the following similar sentences in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English at the word when 1:

  • When the family came here from Russia, they were penniless.
  • She remembered the day when Paula had first arrived.

I know from school that we use the Past Perfect Simple (had + past participle) to talk about time up to a certain point in the past.

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    It's impossible to say 'which is correct' without context. (1) means that she was near the place at the time you saw her. (2) means that , at that time, she had recently been there. Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 15:06
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    They're both fine, but they mean different things. #1 means she was near the place at the time when you saw her, but #2 means she was at that place earlier (before you saw her - perhaps shortly before, but perhaps a long time ago). By implication, in #1 you must also have been near the place when you saw her, but with #2 that place could be thousands of miles away (she might have just flown halfway round the world to get to the place where you saw her). Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 15:09
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    Please edit your question to add what you already know about the difference between simple past and past perfect so we don't reinvent the wheel answering your broad question.
    – gotube
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 18:32
  • MSKHL Are you the same person as @Marios Athanasiou? That user has made extensive edits to your question and claimed it was theirs
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 19:28
  • @Peter Jennings Hi! A hacker invaded on Stackexchange site and changed the 2 editions of the questions I had edited. I didn't notice it. I edited again the question.I apologise. I took your rejection as a personal attack. I was wrong. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 8:40

2 Answers 2

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  1. When I saw her,she was near that place.

  2. When I saw her,she had been near that place.

Past Simple expresses actions that occurred in the past, while Past Perfect talks about something that occurred before another past event or action.

In the first sentence we have two past actions. First I saw her and after the second action took place.

In the second sentence we have two actions. The action expressed with Past Perfect took place before the action expressed with Past Simple. We emphasise that first she was near that place and after I saw her.

  • When the family came here from Russia, they were penniless.

In that sentence we say that first they were penniless and after the family came here from Russia.

  • She remembered the day when Paula had first arrived.

In that sentence we say that first Paula arrived and after she remembered the day.

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  • No, I'm sorry. I think you have got this all confused. You're probably talking about an older question which was deleted by the author. The title was The choice of word/the kind of film The edit you have proposed is on this page. I rejected the edit because you changed the question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 10:01
  • I have read the question, and the edit improved it which deserved an upvote. Your answer isn't bad, but for me it lacks detail and precision. Perhaps the OP will accept your answer? All the best.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 10:35
  • @Mari-Lou A Hi. I have respect for you. You are like my teacher. At the beginning I didn't know this site and you helped me a lot. You edited and answered my questions. Please, guide me with a comment how to edit my answer again in order my answer to not lack detail and precision. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 10:47
  • @MSKHL Hi! Please read my answer and upvote or downvote it. Thank you. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 11:09
  • @Mari-Lou A Hi. Please read my answer again.I edited it again. If you like it, you can vote it up. I believe that now my answer does not lack detail and precision. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 13:02
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When I saw her, she was near that place.

When I saw her, she had been near that place.

The first sentence refers to a particular occasion on which you saw her. On that occasion, she was near that place. (Although some speakers use when to mean whenever, in which case it would mean "Every time I saw her, she was near that place".)

The second sentence also refers to a particular occasion on which you saw her. At some time prior to the occasion on which you saw her, she was near that place. Absent any further supplementary information, we would assume that she was no longer at that place when you saw her, although we really have no way of knowing that; it is only an inference. But you could change that by adding further details:

When I saw her, she had been near that place for approximately three days, according to the coroner's report.

When I saw her, she had been near that place for more than 20 minutes, judging by how angry she was with me for being late.

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