Dialog #1:

John: "Hey, what did you do last night?"

Peter: "Oh, not much. When I had watched TV, I ended up falling asleep on the couch."

John: "Typical! What were you watching?"

Dialog #2:

John: "So what did you do yesterday?"

Peter: "I came home from school early. I had dinner and then went outside. When I returned, I had supper, cleaned my room and then fed the dog. When I had watched TV, I did my homework. After that, I took a shower and then went to bed."


Does the past perfect "had watched" work in the when-clause in the above two dialogs that I made up? I know that I can say "After watching TV, I did my homework." or "After watching TV, I ended up falling asleep on the couch.", but I'm wondering specifically about the construction in which the word "when" and the past perfect "had watched" are used. Thank you.

  • 3
    after, not when. when is not great there. When I had left the job, I realized I liked it.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 20 at 21:59
  • 2
    when implies that you were obliged to watch TV before sleeping. Possible, but unlikely! Commented May 20 at 23:38
  • I can't tell if 1 is supposed to mean you watched TV for a while then afterwards did something else on the couch till you fell asleep, or you fell asleep while watching TV. I'd guess you did something else then fell asleep but either way it's wrong. 2 suggests doing homework immediately after watching TV (unlike in 1 where I guess you fell asleep some time later), although I've no idea if that's what you meant.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 21 at 0:14
  • @FumbleFingers Or that the listener knows that the speaker has a habit of always watching TV at night, which is more likely. The phrasing sets up watching TV as an expected occurrence, whether because it’s a known obligation or just something that forms a fairly fixed part of everyday life. Other activities that would work similarly: “When I had [showered / had dinner / fed the dog / done the dishes]”; vs some that would be odd with no further context: “When I had [bought a Ferrari / given birth / thrown a party / made a matryoshka doll]”. Commented May 21 at 6:39
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet: You're quite right. There's a fuzzy continuum between "obliged" and "expected" where the furthest reaches of the latter are entirely down to "normal, default, habitual" with no element of coercion. (I just didn't think that far outside the box! :) Commented May 21 at 10:23

1 Answer 1


The past perfect makes sense in dialog 2, but not dialog 1.

Dialog 2

When I had watched TV, I did my homework.

This means the same thing as "after I finished watching tv, I did my homework next." It sounds natural and idiomatic.

Dialog 1

When I had watched TV, I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

This does not make much sense, since the most common expectation would be that Peter fell asleep while watching tv, not afterwards. In other words, one would not expect that these are two separate events with time in between them. Instead, it would be more idiomatic to say any of the below:

I watched some tv and ended up falling asleep on the couch.

I sat down to watch some tv and ended up falling asleep on the couch.

I ended up falling asleep on the couch while watching tv.

  • 4
    A good answer, emphasising the fact that the first OP example is not grammatically wrong, but probably doesn't say what was intended. That's so often a challenge for learners on this site: usually our tense choices are not wrong absolutely, but will depend on what we want to communicate. Commented May 21 at 4:34
  • 3
    In Dialogue 2, it would be more natural to say how long you spent watching TV, or what programme you watched. "When/after I had watched TV for an hour, I did my homework." Commented May 21 at 8:08

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