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I am a bit confused about using past perfect tense.

Are both of these sentences correct, or is only the past simple tense correct?

Sara went to bed as soon as she had (she'd) finished homework.
Sara went to bed as soon as she finished homework.

Do both of these sentences mean the same thing?

Everyone had gone home when Sarah got to the party.
Everyone had gone home when Sara had got to the party.

If the sentence was rephrased as

Everyone went home when Sara had got to the party.

does it mean the same thing? Which event will be 1st action and which will be the later or 2nd action?

What happens if I use both "when" and "before" before past perfect sentence while the mostly used before past simple sentence?

Would you give some examples and explain them please?

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Let's first talk about the following two sentences:

1- Sara went to bed as soon as she had finished homework.

2- Sara went to bed as soon as she finished homework.

I think your confusion is valid because we use the past perfect when we talk about something that took place before another thing in the past. So the use of the past perfect comes across in the first sentence but the use of the past simple in the second sentence doesn't. Am I right? In fact, we don't need to use the past perfect unless it is necessary or unavoidable to do so. Even if we talk about one action happening before the other one, it is possible to use the simple past for both actions if we think it is not necessary to highlight or emphasize the happening of the earlier action. It sounds natural to avoid using the past perfect where the simple past works, which is used to refer to something or several things happening in sequence (one after another) in the past.

So both of the sentences are grammatically correct. However, I'll prefer the second phrase to the first one.

As for the last two sentences, it is correct to say that "everyone had gone home when Sara got to the party", but it's not grammatically correct to say that "everyone had gone home when Sara had got to the party". It doesn't make sense. In the past perfect when we talk about two events, we use the simple past in one clause and the past perfect in the second clause.

Let's now talk about the following sentence you are confused about:

"Everyone went home when Sara had got to the party".

There is nothing wrong with this sentence, but the meaning is other way round. It means that first Sara got to the party and then every one went home. Look at the first sentence again. When Sara got to the party, everyone had gone home. Here it means that first everyone went home and then Sara got to the party. Sometimes, one action happens soon after the other action, here we should use the past simple in both clauses such as when Sara got to the party, everyone left, when they saw the police, they ran away, etc.

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  • um very grateful Mr.Khan for your answer... – Hiwa I. Yasin Oct 4 '14 at 15:56
  • can you just get me more explanation about this topic..with giving more examples....ur answers won't be forgettable ... – Hiwa I. Yasin Oct 4 '14 at 16:39
  • Hiwa, please read the last paragraph of my answer again, I have added some more examples. – Khan Oct 5 '14 at 19:57
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    Hiwa, there you are wrong. Please look at the sentence again. When Sara had got to the party, it is the action happened earlier (past perfect) whereas everyone went home is the action happened later (past simple). Why everyone went after Sara got/had got to the party might be for any reason including the ones mentioned by you. – Khan Oct 6 '14 at 7:15
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    Hiwa, please note in my comments as above, I have used after Sara got/had got. The point is that we can also use the past simple in the past perfect clause if – Khan Oct 6 '14 at 7:30
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Use of the past perfect tense in common speech helps to establish the time relationship between two events that happened in the past.

Example from your question:

Everyone had gone home when Sarah got to the party.

This means that (earlier) everyone went home, and then (sometime later) Sara got to the party.

Also, allow me to answer some of the "sub-questions" in your posting.

Are both of these sentences correct, or is only the past simple tense correct?

Sara went to bed as soon as she had (she'd) finished homework.

Sara went to bed as soon as she finished homework.

Both are correct, but the first defines the chronological sequence in a more precise and understandable fashion.

Do both of these sentences mean the same thing?

Everyone had gone home when Sarah got to the party.

Everyone had gone home when Sara had got to the party.

Yes, but the latter more clearly describes the chronological relationship. The former is understandable and would be acceptable in spoken English, albeit considered somewhat sloppy and imprecise.

If this is not a clear enough explanation, please respond and I will try to fill in the gaps.

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    Your first two answer are correct, but I believe your last answer is wrong. We ordinarily use a past perfect in a when clause only to establish an event after which the event in the main clause occurred: When Sara had got to the party everybody went home - as if everybody was only hanging around to make sure Sara got there! – StoneyB Oct 4 '14 at 0:26
  • um very grateful for ur answer dear...can you just explain me this topic more precisely...? with giving more examples... – Hiwa I. Yasin Oct 4 '14 at 16:32

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