1. Before we had walked ten miles, he complained of sore feet.
  2. Nobody had believed him when he said he was innocent.

(1) - Why is past perfect used in the before clause when the main clause is before?

(2) - Instead of nobody believed him, it says "nobody had believed (past perfect) him when he said he was innocent", why?

  • 2
    The first example practically requires the Perfect verb form, since the walking of (somewhat less than) ten miles must precede the complaining of sore feet. But the second example is only "natural" in certain specific contexts (for example, where the narrative reference time is in the past, but focused on some later time when people did believe him). That's because unlike the walking preceding the complaint, the disbelief can't precede the claims of innocence. Note that strictly speaking it's when he had said he was innocent, but we don't normally repeat the Perfect there. Sep 11 at 11:18
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you for your answer.
    – inviolable
    Sep 11 at 23:06

1 Answer 1


In (1), the past perfect is used because the activity had not yet finished - they were still walking. ("Before we walked ten miles" would mean "before we set out".)

(2) could be used if the person was later proved to be innocent. After the trial, people accepted the 'not guilty' verdict, but before the trial no-one had believed him.

  • I see, thank you for your answer.
    – inviolable
    Sep 11 at 9:07

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