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1 I went shopping before I had called him. = When I went shopping I hadn't called him.

Do you agree that sentence 1 means that the call was NOT made?

2 I went shopping before I called him. = When I went shopping I called him.

Do you agree that sentence 2 means that the call was made?

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Ticce

1 I went shopping before I had called him. = When I went shopping I hadn't called him. This sounds reasonable.

Do you agree that sentence 1 means that the call was NOT made? This is not implied by the given sentence, so no. We don't know if the call was ever made or not. We only know that the shopping happened before the call IF the call happened at all.

Ticce

2 I went shopping before I called him. = When I went shopping I called him. I wouldn't put it like that. = I went shopping, and then I called him.

Do you agree that sentence 2 means that the call was made? It certainly seems so. Yes.

CJ

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Ticce1 I went shopping before I had called him.

The past perfect is not good there because there is no reference to an earlier time.

The amended version (simple past) means:

I went shopping. Afterwards I called him.

You did make the call, but it came after your shopping trip.


Another version:

I had called him before I went shopping.

There are two actions. The call came first, followed by the shopping trip.

Another version (Opposite order of actions.). This is somewhat ambiguous because "go shopping" is an action that has a beginning, middle and end. It is not clear if you called after you left the house, while you were in the store, or after to got back home. Most people would assume that your shopping trip had completed.

I had gone shopping before I called him.
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Comments  

A friend of mine who is american had the same reaction as you did. However, this pattern I went shopping before I had called him is presented in a grammar by an Englishman.

I met George before he had heard the news

He (the Englishman) insists that the construction is correct.

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
TicceHe (the Englishman) insists that the construction is correct.

English has many dialects and speaker preferences. The use of past perfect compared to simple past is sometimes the preference of the speaker.