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I had been aware of this band for a few years, but did not get hooked until I heard this song.

Just would like to know if past perfect is here to emphasize the length "for a few years" and the change "I get hooked". Could it be possible to use past simple?

I was aware of this band for a few years, but did not get hooked until I heard this song.

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(Native American English speaker here.)

I don't think that the past-perfect tense emphasizes the length of time when the speaker was aware of the band but not hooked. It clarifies that the act of getting hooked happened in the past. If you use the simple past tense, like this:

I was aware of this band for a few years, but did not get hooked until I heard this song.

the time when the speaker got hooked is less clear. It might be in the present or very recent. The past-perfect version suggests that the speaker has been hooked on the band for a long time and is no longer experiencing the initial thrills of getting hooked, though context could override that.

If you wanted to emphasize the length of time when you were aware of the band but not hooked, you could put that at the beginning of the sentence:

For a few years, I had been aware of this band, but I did not get hooked until I heard this song.

Note that you need to repeat "I" to prevent this version of the sentence from becoming a little confusing.

  • But If I write I was aware of this band for a few years, but did not get hooked: we can think that first I was aware of this band first for a few years and that only at the end of this few years I get hooked. Is it illogical ? – user5577 Jan 13 '16 at 14:02
  • "I was aware of this band for a few years, but did not get hooked": maybe you never got hooked. The sentence doesn't say. – Ben Kovitz Jan 13 '16 at 15:15
  • @user5577 - You use the past perfect, I had been aware, to emphasize that you are referring to your awareness at the time that you heard the song and became hooked. The past simple isn't wrong, but it's a lot less specific. – stangdon Jan 13 '16 at 15:32
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Past perfect is used to say that one past event/action happened before another past event/action.

I had bought my groceries when I found out I was low on money.

She bought her groceries before finding out she was low on money.

I bought my groceries when I had found out I was low on money.

She bought her groceries after finding out she was low on money (probably didn't buy a lot of groceries).

If you use words like before and after to express the relation between two past events, you usually can get away with not using past perfect, but you still can use it:

I was home before the hooligans broke the back window.

I had been home before the hooligans broke the back window.

There are a few other uses of past perfect detailed here.

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