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I am confused if I should use past perfect tense or present perfect tense in this sentence.

Herbal teas have been used for medication (for centuries) before pills were invented.

Herbal teas had been used for medication (for centuries) before pills were invented.

1.I can use present perfect tense because some people still use herbs for medication..But they are not prescribed anymore I think.

2.Because the part "pills were invented" is in the past form should the part "Herbal teas have been used" be past form also

  • IMO anything before the invention of something takes the past perfect. – Maulik V Oct 6 '15 at 10:32
  • +1 for past perfect. The use of before means you're talking about a period in the past. – Graham Nicol Oct 6 '15 at 10:49
  • can "past perfect tense" be used for activities still going on or having an effect in the present? – Amanda21 Oct 6 '15 at 10:55
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    No it cant, @Maulik has put it right – Chu Wa Tim Tim Oct 6 '15 at 11:31
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    Chu Wa Tim Tim, you can also use the simple past in the main clause. People communicated in many ways before the telephone was invented. So it's also correct to say "Herbal teas were used before pills were/had been invented. – Khan Oct 6 '15 at 12:25
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You have a timeline here:

Dawn of human race...{Herbal teas begin to be used}....Pills......Today

So one could say:

Herbal teas have been used since before the invention of pills.

or

Long before pills were invented, herbal teas had been used.

The first sentence means that people used herbal teas before pills were invented and people continue to use them today.

The second sentence means that people used herbal teas before pills were invented, but it does not indicate that they are being used today.

It is not the fact that governs the use of the tense, it is the statement of the fact.

He had been seeing Mary before he met his wife Dolores.

He has been seeing Mary since before he met his wife Dolores.

In which of those two worlds do you think Dolores has greater cause to be unhappy?

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    Thanks.The answer for your question is "your second sentence".So can I say : "Herbal teas have been used since before the pills were invented" to mean " people used herbal teas before pills were invented and people continue to use them today. " – Amanda21 Oct 6 '15 at 16:21
  • Yes, that is the meaning. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 6 '15 at 17:27
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Past perfect and your second point is the correct reason. The information in your first point is right, but it is nevertheless out of the framework of the sentence. Therefore there is no need to consider the first point in choosing tense.

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