Let's say I'm with some people, and they show me something that once I knew. Would it be correct to say:

Ah! I had forgotten about that!

My concern is whether the past perfect can be used or not, since there's no time reference about an action being in the past of a past action.

It sounds good to me, and I guess it could be correct because it's implied something like:

Before you showed me (...) that!

But, if you have just showed me (I'm literally saying this right after), I don't think that using the past-simple is ok, so that would mean that the past-perfect is uncorrect.

  • It isn't a matter of wrong or right, but of clarity. If the simple past in context is sufficiently clear ("I forgot all about that!" versus "I'd forgotten about that!") then the simple past is not "wrong" even if you're explaining what caused your behavior, the cause predating the behavior, and therefore licensing the past perfect. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 27 '16 at 13:36

Yes, the pluperfect/past perfect can be used in cases like this, where the time reference is implied: here before you showed me. It would even be considered rather verbose to explicitly say “before you showed me”, as the time is so clearly implied.

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