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Sam walks down the street and sees a dog.The next day, Sam sees the same dog that he saw before. He had thought he would never see it again, but now he suspects he will see it again tomorrow as well.

Here I don't understand is He had thought. Why answerer used past perfect. In my opinion, if I see something later thoughts will come because if we don't see anything thoughts will not come about that. But in the answer, that he saw before and had thought,Why? I think it should be He thought because he saw and thought he would never see it again. It is sequence of tense. But answerer used had thought. Does answerer want to show complete action that day Sam saw and what he thought ? If I change tense , it would be wrong?

Sam walks down the street and sees a dog.The next day, Sam sees the same dog that he saw before. He thought, he would never see it again, but now he suspects he will see it again tomorrow as well.

  • The cited text is substandard, because it drops all the way from using Present in the Past (sees the same dog) to Past Perfect (had thought). But it's a pointlessly contrived context where no-one really cares anyway. Mar 21 at 2:12
  • Honestly, I would ignore this passage instead of trying to understand it. This was my attempt to show that it's okay to mix many tenses in a story, because you can be talking about many points in time. Mar 21 at 2:15

2 Answers 2


Combined with some of your other questions, it sounds like maybe you should read more about the uses of perfect tenses. But they can be confusing; I would wait until you have a firm foundation of simple tenses.

Starting with present perfect, yes, you could often describe the same thing with simple past.

  • I ate dinner.
  • I've eaten dinner.

Both describe the same event. But the simple past version is all about the event: dinner-eating happened. While the present perfect version focuses on me; it describes my state: I am a person who has eaten dinner. Isn't it funny that it's "present perfect," even though the dinner is in the past? But it affects my current state. So present perfect is sometimes chosen for when something in the past has some relevance to our present.

Now, past perfect can be understood if we shift the whole conversation to the past.

  • Yesterday I ate dinner. (This can still use simple past, even though it's farther in our past than today's dinner.)
  • Yesterday, when you saw me at 9 pm, I had already eaten dinner.

I can use past perfect because I'm talking about two different points in the past. The 9 pm meeting, and the dinner that was even farther in the past. Past perfect lets me show how those two points relate to each other. In the earlier, present-tense examples, we had a choice and could have used either simple present or present perfect, and would just change our emphasis a bit. Here, in these past-tense examples, we don't have as much choice. In this latest sentence, we must use past perfect to show how one event was farther back in the past. And for "Yesterday I ate dinner," it would be strange to use "had eaten" because there isn't another point to relate it to. (Though it would be fine if the sentences just before had talked about some such other point.)

Now honestly, I wouldn't pay that "Sam sees a dog" passage too much attention. I just made it up, as an example of how a story could mix tenses. I'm not sure I have a good justification for the perfect tense there; I suspect that I just tried too hard to create variety.

  • Your explanation is good.I accept the answer.Now I am clear in mind.@Andy Bonner.
    – Thamilay
    Mar 23 at 11:09

This is similar in German where you can say certain words two ways using very similar constructions, and it's still correct both ways.

Your example, however, is to emphasize the fact that "He thought about something in the past". The "had" there, emphasizes that the "thought" was in the past. So it's making it very apparent, the "thought" is past tense.

As to the "colloquial-ness", if you want to add emphasis to how much you want it to be apparent that was happening in the "past", you'd use the past-perfect construction. That being said, both are correct.

  • If I want to emphasize that he thought then I just add had as had thought in this post.You mean like that? @NeuseelandRotVogel
    – Thamilay
    Mar 21 at 1:30
  • Yes, although naturally I'd just say "thought" like you said. "I had breathed..., They had ran..., we had talked...". It's just a way to convey past tense. Personally, I wouldn't use this construction speaking unless I really wanted to emphasize how past tense something was. But, this is somewhat weird because some words DO require the "had" and some sound wrong: "I gone" (WRONG), "I had gone" (CORRECT), "I had went" (WRONG), "I went" (CORRECT). As a general rule, they conform to what you asked, but not always.
    – user186351
    Mar 21 at 1:39
  • Yes I know the structure of past perfect tense. I will never use had went, had ate and etc. Thank you for your reply , it is helpful for me. I also want to ask what i meant is why they ever use those situations as past perfect because they can use easily past simple.Now I get the point so I can explain the other English learners that is just emphasize the tense we can use simple past meaning is same.@NeuseelanRotVogel
    – Thamilay
    Mar 21 at 9:14

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