we were creating a story and stumbled over this sentence:

I remembered the day when she had come up with an idea...

So in this sentence is it better to use Past Perfect or is it better to say "I remembered the day when she came up with an idea..." - since we're remembering a specific day in the past? But on the other hand, the first verb was remembered, and the thing he's remembering happened before that moment of remembering? Could you share your vision of this question?

  • Hi. Tense choice is often very dependent on the context or sequence of events in a story. It's really hard to tell you what to use based on a single sentence. It would be better if you could share a paragraph.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 12, 2023 at 9:13
  • Thanks for responding). our story went like this - At the age of 25 a man called Jack opened a backery. He had grown up with his grandma who he had been looking after until she died. He remembered the day she had come up with an idea of a special recipe for pastries to cheer him up. And when he met a girl he liked and wanted to impres this resipe was an inspiration for him... Jul 12, 2023 at 10:31
  • It's bakery not backery. The rest looks fine to me. Note however that proof reading is off-topic here.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 12, 2023 at 10:38
  • This is the correct use of past perfect, following a simple past. That said, it depends on the temporal emphasis you want to give the sentence.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14, 2023 at 15:33
  • If you REALLY want to stress that she came up with the idea before you remembered: FINE. If not, don't use it.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14, 2023 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


You don't need the Perfect form in the cited context - so as ever, it's best not to use it. There's just one single instance of the Perfect being used in this exact sequence in Google Books...

She remembered the day when she had come here with her brother

...compared to about a dozen instances of...

He remembered the day when she came...

It's not wrong to use Past Perfect in such contexts, but obviously most published writers don't.

  • I disagree completely. And Google Books ain't the god of English. We all are.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14, 2023 at 15:34
  • You're perfectly entitled to disagree with the implication of my answer (that the OP shouldn't use the Perfect form in his specific example). I don't really see how you can justify advising a learner to use verb forms that apparently less than 1 in 10 published writers choose to use. But as my answer points out, it's not wrong to do so. Just in my opinion not a very good idea. Jul 14, 2023 at 15:50
  • I don't go by published writers. I go by my own internalized uses of grammar.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14, 2023 at 15:51
  • Do you not agree with my oft-repeated observation that most learners tend to overuse Perfect verb forms? Jul 14, 2023 at 15:57
  • Yes, but that does not make it wrong. Also, I use it quite a bit; it just isn't vestigial yet.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14, 2023 at 16:06

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