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What is the difference between "had been" and "was"? I understand that "had been" is an example of past perfect tense, and it describes two events in the past, where the first event is completed before the next event.

Here is an example of what I'm talking about:

My most recent example was earlier this summer when my flight from Nanchang to Beijing was delayed.

Shouldn't it be "had been delayed"?

And again,

What is the difference between "I had gotten that back in July" and "I got that back in July."

Also, what is the difference between:

"I leave for New York this afternoon"

or

"I am leaving for New York this afternoon."

In the second example, "am leaving" is an example of a present progressive tense, I understand, so the action began in the past, is still going on in the present, and will probably continue on in to the future. Is this a correct definition? Then along those lines, the better sentence should be the first one, shouldn't it?

Thanks so much for any help you can give me! I've been mulling over this for two days now lol.
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Welcome to English Forums!

My most recent example was earlier this summer when my flight from Nanchang to Beijing was delayed.


Shouldn't it be "had been delayed"?

No. The time referenced by earlier this summer is the same time referenced by the flight delay, or rather the time of the flight delay is encompassed within the time period referenced by earlier this summer. There is nothing here to indicate that the time period earlier in the summer was either before or after the flight delay.

The use of past perfect almost always requires that a past point of view be established first.
_______

"I had gotten that back in July" vs. "I got that back in July."

The first is said from the point of view of the past. The second is said from the point of view of the present.
The past perfect is a dependent tense. It makes no sense at all out of a context which first establishes a past point of view. In other words, you can't get a good understanding of the past perfect by analyzing isolated sentences.

-- When did you get that new refrigerator?
-- I got that back in July.

-- I really like my new dishwasher.
-- I do, too. And your new refrigerator looks nice, too. When did you get them?
-- Well, I didn't get them at the same time. I got the dishwasher in August to match the refrigerator. You see, I had gotten that back in July, so I had already had it a month before I finally bought the dishwasher.


CJ
Comments  
LunchboxAlso, what is the difference between:

"I leave for New York this afternoon"

or

"I am leaving for New York this afternoon."

In the first sentence, when an event is part of a time table, sometimes we use the simple present to talk about the future event.

This afternoon is within the time table.

In the second sentence, we use the present progressive because the future event which have alread been planned or decided.

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 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
I don't quite understand what you mean by "there is nothing here to indicate that the time period earlier in the summer was either before or after the flight delay."

Do you mean that the reader would expect you, the writer, to continue with the sentence? Yet, by leaving it with "had been delayed," it's as if you'd cut the sentence off, right? The reader expects information regarding whether or not the "time period earlier in the summer was either before or after the flight delay" in the words that follow, but you neglect to show this.

The use of past perfect almost always requires that a past point of view be established firs
t.

Could you clarify this a bit more? A past point of view had already been established at the sentence's beginning: "my most recent example was EARLIER THIS SUMMER..." so we know that described events that follow will be in the past. I sort of understand, and I sort of don't.

How about other sentences?

If you had been listening, you would know.

If you were listening, you would know.

OR

While everyone had been sleeping, I was working.

While everyone was sleeping, I was working.

I suppose the second sentence would be correct? Because the act of sleeping had not been complete while the speaker worked. (even in this sentence, I don't know whether or not I should use "Because the act of sleeping HAD NOT BEEN complete while the speaker worked," or "Because the act of sleeping WAS NOT COMPLETE while the speaker worked.") Do you understand my frustration!? I feel like I can never get to the bottom of this!! There are just so many ways this past-perfect/past-simple stuff can pop up, and I very desperately want a definitive answer to all of this. I highly, HIGHLY doubt that other native speakers go through this sort of deep analysis for every sentence they use that MAY require the use of a past-perfect tense. I do understand how it works, and I usually just say whatever sounds "right," but I can't really explain why I think it's right.

Thanks for the replies, though! =(
bump =)

I just read this on a nytimes article:
''I was hesitant because it was something I've never really seen done before,'' she said. ''I just finished film school and had been taught to be careful of all the scams in L.A. and all the scary people and don't trust people. I was a little nervous.''
Is there something wrong with her sentences? Shouldn't it be,

"I was hesitant because it had been (or was?) something I had never really seen done before," she said. "I had just finished film school and had been taught to be careful of all the scams in L.A. and all the scary people and don't trust people. I was a little nervous."

Thanks kindly!
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