Dan and I met back in 2010 or 2011. He was a regular at the record store I had been working in for years. He asked for the Gun Club's Death Party EP and it happened to be the next record in the stack I was pricing. Kind of a magical coincidence when you work around records for a while. We had talked about playing music off and on for a bit, but nothing came of it.

Why we had talked? He is referring to one special event (when he asked for the gun club) and it is obvious that he first talked so past simple could also do it. If it choose past perfect is it to connect both action (the talking and the result nothing came from this discussion.

Maybe he is not referring to that single action (GUN CLUB RECORDS) but every time he came to the shop he had a chat.

  • 2
    The past perfect there is in relation to "but nothing came of it". The talking preceded the time when something might have developed from their talks. There is a shift of time from their first meeting to their later chats.
    – TimR
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 16:26
  • Of and on for a bit refers to more than one instance of talking about playing music. Commented May 8, 2016 at 16:58

2 Answers 2


I think the simple past would make more sense. They met, then they talked about playing music, then nothing came of it: these are successive actions.

There is a sort of hiatus between the story of the meeting and the part of the narrative starting with “We had talked …”: the reference time changes. The first part narrates successive events. The past perfect would normally be used to relate an event that happened before the time of the action of the previous sentences, but here it's in the past only relative to what follows.

Looking at a bit more context reveals what I think is the explanation for this odd use of the past perfect.

How did you guys meet and why did you start making music together?

CORY : Dan and I met back in 2010 or 2011. (…) █ We had talked about playing music off and on for a bit, but nothing came of it. I then moved into an apartment by a bar that Dan was working at. (…)

In all likelihood, Cory was asked two questions: “How did you guys meet?”, and “why did you start making music together”. The part before █ is the answer to the first question, a narrative in the simple past. The part after █ is the answer to the second question. “We had talk about playing music” happened before they started making music together, so it's in the past perfect. The rest of the answer (“I then moved …”, etc.) is the story of how they started making music together, which is the main action, so it's in the simple past. When the article was written, the two questions were merged, resulting in this oddity with tenses.


Past perfect tenses are saying or implying something has happened before or after the event/action. Usually they are not required but serve to help fix things in a place in a timeline. They are less necessary but typically used anyway for clarity if time expressions label events.

Sometimes this is explicit and easy to see:

We had gone to the store before we went to the park.

Sometimes the other event is not so explicit:

We had talked about playing music off and on for a bit, but nothing came of it.

The speaker/writer is considering "nothing came of it" an event. Since this is simple past, it's a "completed" event.

How the meaning works is that the opportunity that "talked about playing music" provided (the opportunity to play music, be in a band) is passed and that opportunity no longer exists. They will have to "restart" playing music if they want to do it now.

It's even possible for the other event to not be expressed at all, especially if in response to a question:

A: What did you do before going to the park?

B: I had gone to the store.


A: So you knew Sally a long time ago.

B: Yes, I had gone to school with her. (Implying or "leaving open" that other stuff has happened since then.)

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