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Is it possible to write if it is not possible let me know why

To our surprise the car was intact when we had reached the top of the hill.

Or is it better to write

By the time we had reached the top of the hill, the car was still intact.

1

There seems to be nothing wrong grammatically with these two sentences. However, I think we should use the past perfect when it is necessary or we want to emphasize an event that happened before another event in the past. I think if the past simple works, it is better to avoid using the past perfect. However, if we write these sentences in the past simple as follows it sounds better:

1- To our surprise the car was still intact when we reached the top of the hill.

2- By the time we reached the top of the hill, the car was still intact.

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  • But if I want to say that it is because we had reached the hill that we could see that the car was still intact. Before we had finished reaching the hill it was not possible to see whether the car was intact or not – user5577 Oct 10 '14 at 20:43
  • We reached is the past simple which means a completed action/event in the past. Look at the following sentences and change them into the past perfect and find how they sound to you. He was very sad when his friend died. When he went to work on foot yesterdsy , he was very tired. – Khan Oct 13 '14 at 4:15
  • So you mean only the principal clause should work with past perfect.It had been very sad when his friend died. – user5577 Oct 13 '14 at 20:12
  • Look at this example when she had washed the dishes she had a cup of tea.So what is the difference with When we had reached the hill, the car was still intact. – user5577 Oct 13 '14 at 20:40
  • Again, I will say that there is nothing wrong with your sentences. When one action follows another action, we can use both the clauses in the simple past, which gives an impression that the second action started immediately or shortly after the completion of the first action. So we can also say that when she washed the dishes, she had a cup of tea. There is also nothing wrong with these two clauses in the past. – Khan Oct 16 '14 at 6:24
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To our surprise the car was intact when we had reached the top of the hill.

By the time we had reached the top of the hill, the car was still intact.

These sentences are perfectly grammatical, however the past perfect is most often used when there may be some ambiguity about when two events in the past happened relative to each other, or when some past event happened relative to a specific time in the past. It is strange to use the past perfect to relate the time of reaching the top of the hill to "the car still being intact". The sentence is easier to understand if you use the simple past in that case.

However, you might want to relate when you saw the car or some other occurrence to when you reached the top of the hill.

When we had reached the top of the hill, we saw, surprisingly, that the car was still intact.

By the time we reached the top of the hill, the car had exploded.

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