In the book A history of modern Europe by John M. Merriman, it is mentioned "After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Christendom had been split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church following the Great Schism between the two churches in 1054."

Why did the author use the past perfect tense in the second clause instead of the first one as the collapse of the Roman Empire occurred before the great schism?

  • 1
    I'm guessing that the author is talking about events that happened some time after the Great Schism. From the point of view of those events, the Schism was in the past, so he explains about it using the perfect tense. Commented Mar 13 at 16:33
  • 1
    There must be sentences before and after this one with verbs in the past but later in time to the split. By itself, we don't need had been split. Commented Mar 13 at 16:44
  • 1
    What @YosefBaskin said. I can't locate the source online, but it's a racing certainty that surrounding / following text will be focused on some time after the split. Commented Mar 13 at 16:59
  • Please use the "edit" button to give more of the surrounding context. I'm voting to close for now as unclear. Note, the sentence itself is a bit confusing about the timeline even if it's valid. The split was "following" the Great Schism, but was also "after" the fall of Rome (by a lot, if the author means 476 CE). Both are true, but it's odd to talk about them out of order. Commented Mar 13 at 17:14
  • What is the next sentence in the book?
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 13 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


Using "had split" sets the temporal focus to a time later than the split, and suggests that the writer is then going to talk about some later events.

This is a common way of using the construction, particularly in stories (If a story starts "John's alarm hadn't woken him and he had had to rush his shower and breakfast", you know that the story is going to be set later in the day) but also in other kinds of narrative.

  • Thanks alot Mr Colin Fine, that answered my question. the author did talk about some later events and explained why the schism happened.
    – BOLA123
    Commented Mar 13 at 17:51
  • (Though it's more likely that preceding context has clarified that temporal focus, since that unprepared in media res approach is less likely in a history textbook than in fiction.) Commented Mar 13 at 17:51
  • @AndyBonner Your point has validity but I think the past perfect can be used to set the temporal context in a history, as the boundary between history and story is often blurry.
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 13 at 20:29
  • 1
    @TimR You mean like as in the historical account "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire"? :-) (Present perfect, but still...) Commented Mar 13 at 20:55
  • But the writer goes on to speak of some earlier events.
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 14 at 18:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .