Please have a look at this (I'm speaking about Coldplay's first release.)

"All I can say is that he bought it in Piccadilly records in Manchester a long time ago (1998) before they became very famous. At this time he was living in England and used to go once a week to that store.

The next sentence can be either

"500 copies had been released not 50"


"500 copies were released not 50".

Which solution is the best?

I think the first one, past perfect, is the best because first the record was released then he bought it, but it seems evident that you can't buy a record before it is released so past simple might fit too.

  • 1
    The "not 50" seems to refer to something that doesn't appear in the snippet, and if that something has a temporal aspect, we might need to see it in order to know which is better.
    – TimR
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 21:39
  • The guy was able to buy a copy because 500 copies not 50 copies.... @TRomano
    – user6951
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 21:55
  • @pazzo: I understand, but I'm wondering if the paragraph has already mentioned a concern that he might not be able to put his hands on a copy because he believed there had been only a tiny production run. If so, that would "seal the deal" on the past-perfect as preferable to the simple past.
    – TimR
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 22:24

2 Answers 2


In this instance, the past perfect works well

500 copies had been released not 50.

What the past perfect does here is set up a relationship between some past time X (namely: 1998, Manchester, when he would go to the store often)--and say that the release of the 500 copies before that past time had continuing significance at the time X.

This is a nice use of the past perfect, because the significance is that because so many copies had been released (before 1998) he had the opportunity to buy one in 1998. And although you do not state this explicitly, the use if the past perfect implies that this is the case, because what else could be the continuing siginficance in this scenario?

Whereas, the simple past -- while completely acceptable -- because, you are correct, by logic and common sense, we know that the records were released first. Nevertheless, the simple past does not set up this relationship of continuing significance.


I would go with:

500 copies had been released not 50

because this happened a long time ago and the action was already completed (assuming you are saying this now).

But if you were adding some other action that occurred at that time, you could go with were released. For example:

Due to increased demand by fans, 500 copies were released, not 50.


Due to an error made by the recording company, 500 copies were released, not 50.

  • Why if I were adding another action ,I could go with past simple ?
    – Yves Lefol
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 5:49

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