15 votes
Accepted

English's imperfect tense and its imperfection

The technical term for the default aspect expressed by the English "past tense" is perfective—it expresses an action seen from the outside, as a whole. As you say, it implies that the action is "...
7 votes
Accepted

past perfect with 'when'

Example 1 is typical grammatical, idiomatic English. Example 2 is awkward and doesn't really work as it stands. It's as though something is missing, as in: Alice walked to the door when the doorbell ...
  • 24.9k
6 votes
Accepted

Why is the Past Perfect not used here?

We use the past perfect (had left/had contracted/had stipulated) to specify that an event in the past happened before another event in the past, and yes, it would be hard to stipulate something after ...
  • 36.6k
6 votes
Accepted

When I was in Tokyo, I [saw] or [had seen] the movie three times?

When I was in Tokyo, I saw the movie three times. "was" simple past and "saw" simple past, puts both actions at the same time When I was in Tokyo, I had seen the movie three times. "was" simple ...
  • 65.5k
6 votes
Accepted

Past Perfect Continuous vs Past Simple

As is often the case with aspectual distinctions in English (perfect or not; continuous or not) both are possible, depending on how the speaker is choosing to present the temporal structure of the ...
  • 66.8k
5 votes

Past perfect tense

(2) She had entered the room and found him laid on the floor with the box in his right hand. You describe this as "the past perfect and the simple past", but in fact it will not be parsed this way. ...
5 votes
Accepted

This is the watch that I (have/had/--) lost. -- what's the difference?

As you say, what you would ordinarily say is This is the watch that I lost. If you are required by the imbecility of testwriters to use a perfect, it must be a past perfect. Because you now have ...
5 votes
Accepted

What is the difference between "what had been" and "what was" in this quote?

The story is narrated in the past tense. To refer to a time in Elizabeth's past, earlier than the time of her writing of the letter, the narrator uses the past perfect. Elizabeth was determined to ...
5 votes

When I was in Tokyo, I [saw] or [had seen] the movie three times?

Past Perfect is mostly used to speak about an event in the past that happened before another event in the past. We use Past Perfect for something that started in the past and continued up to a ...
  • 24.5k
4 votes
Accepted

If you came [had come] tomorrow, I might be [have been] able to help you.​

The following three sentences mean different things. If you had come tomorrow, I might have been able to help you. This sentence is a counterfactual. It means that, because you came today instead ...
4 votes

using perfect tense before "before"

Because before is used it is clear that the explaining of the rules happened first, then the programme started. Because of this, past perfect is optional. In my opinion both sentences have the same ...
  • 3,835
3 votes

Is the usage of tenses correct in this sentence - "two days had passed since she had last eaten or slept"

Both examples are fine (the semantic difference is simply whether the "narrative time" is in the present or the past). But it's unnecessary to repeat the Past Perfect with she had last eaten in the ...
3 votes

Why does a sentence start with Past Perfect but continue in Past Simple?

In situations like this the choice between past and past-perfect forms depends on where you want to focus your reader's attention. A cinematic analogy† may help: think of your time references ...
3 votes
Accepted

Past progressive for a finished event

Technically, if you considered only that sentence, either choice would be possible (It was Friday, the first day of our skiing holiday, and my friend Jason and I had been/were skiing down the mountain ...
  • 26.9k
3 votes

He had left before you came

The leaving happened before the coming in both sentences. When conjunctions such as before and after are used, the past perfect is not essential to establish the order of actions, but it is possible. ...
  • 5,547
3 votes
Accepted

'was' versus 'had been'

You use past perfect tense ("had been") when you are trying to show which of two events in the past happened first. "He had been reluctant when I asked him to come with me" ...
  • 11.8k
3 votes

"He had a gun." or "He has had a gun."

They are not the same and neither is incorrect, but they have different meanings. "Had" by itself is the past tense, while "Has had" is the present perfect, meaning it began in the past and continues ...
  • 679
3 votes

Should I use past perfect for these sentences?

The past simple versions of all three sentences are grammatically correct, and are very clear. They sound natural to my (American) ear. (These versions use "went".) The past perfect versions of ...
  • 24k
3 votes

What should I say "Had Happened" Or "happened"?

We normally use a Perfect tense when we want to: Talk about how a verb before a time of focus on affected that time Talk about a verb beginning before the time of focus which continued until or ...
  • 1,870
3 votes
Accepted

Died or had died?

The correct one is: Two years have passed since my cousin died. The past-perfect tense is usually combined only with simple past or other past-perfect clauses. Combining present perfect and past ...
  • 4,590
3 votes
Accepted

past verb vs has/have been when they are used?

It just depends, Alice. Usually the present perfect ("has been") is used in a general sense in the past whereas the simple past ("was") is used for a specific time in the past or less general time in ...
  • 2,958
3 votes

"You would not have got the flu if you {ate/had eaten} more fruit." - what is the difference?

Your second sentence is a correct third conditional form as these forms are taught to English language learners. Your first sentence has a difference in nuance that is not necessarily grammatically ...
  • 4,590
3 votes
Accepted

Is the past perfect necessary when one action clearly precedes another?

When words like "after" and "before" are used in a sentence the sequence of events is clear and past perfect is optional. So either past perfect or past simple is fine. If you change "after" to " when"...
  • 3,835
3 votes
Accepted

The order of actions (in the example sentence)

The talking happened before the arrival. What might be confusing to you is the fact that the arrived is in past perfect, while the talked is in the simple past. The fact there's a past perfect in the ...
  • 22.4k
3 votes
Accepted

What is difference past simple and past perfect in this sentence?

The past perfect is used for past-in-past; that is to say, things further back in time than the main time of the sentence. Thus, the report is saying that Trump vetoed a measure - simple past. ...
  • 22.4k
3 votes

What is the difference between "introduced", "had introduced" and "have introduced"?

The difference is in how the speaker (writer) is choosing to structure the temporal relationships. In many contexts, there is more than one possible choice; sometimes some of the choices are ruled out ...
  • 66.8k
3 votes
Accepted

I've lost my key, but I found it just now

Neither is correct. "I've lost" (I have lost) is the present perfect tense. It is not logically possible for you to simultaneously have lost and found your key, which makes the first example ...
  • 76.8k
3 votes

Why "I hadn't noticed" instead of "I didn't notice"/"I haven't notice"?

While the three say the same thing about the past, they say very different things about the present. “I hadn’t noticed” means I didn’t notice that before, but I do now. “I haven’t noticed” means I ...
  • 7,922
3 votes

Is it gramatically correct to use "had been" and "had" in a complex sentence like this?

The simple past, "...suddenly opened...", is correct. For tenses in dialogue, we're just dealing normal speech, rather than having to adjust for the narrative simple past of the story itself....
  • 20.5k
2 votes
Accepted

"no one was killed or wounded" vs. "no one had been killed or wounded"

The slight difference is in the "was" or "had" and the implication. If I say, "No one was killed," it's a clear message that no deaths occurred because of the event. It's stating that it did not ...
  • 448

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