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I read in an English grammar book "I have found the keys which I had lost". Why is past perfect being used? Shouldn't it be "I have found the keys which I lost".

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    Either is OK. There's very little semantic difference between "I lost" and "I had lost".
    – Barmar
    Aug 28, 2023 at 19:42
  • It doesn't matter which mood you use for the main clause.
    – Barmar
    Aug 28, 2023 at 19:43
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    You lost the keys before you found them. This fact allows you to use the past perfect for lost. Aug 28, 2023 at 21:58
  • Does this answer your question? Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it? Sep 3, 2023 at 16:39
  • Tenses help to situate events in time. When the semantics already make perfectly clear the temporal relationships, tenses often become simplified. I've found the keys I lost is much more likely to be said in everyday conversation than "... I had lost". ...I had lost is correct, but overkill. Sep 3, 2023 at 17:25

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In English, you need to use past perfect tense if the order of events isn't clear.

When she arrived, the party started.
When she arrived, the party had started.

In the first sentence, she arrives, and the party starts simultaneously. In the second sentence, the party starts, and then she arrives.

We generally don't use the past perfect if the order of events is clear, and the verbs are in the same order that they occur.

I lost my keys, but I found them.
I had lost my keys, but I found them. (Grammatical, but less idiomatic.)

If the order of events is clear, but the verbs aren't in chronological order, you don't need to use past perfect, but people often do.

Both

I have found the keys which I had lost,
I have found the keys which I lost,

are grammatical and idiomatic. (Although unless they're emphasizing one of the verbs, native speakers are more likely to say I've and I'd in those sentences.)

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