Most of the time, past perfect can be omitted with the usage of before, after, prior to... (use simple past instead)

In the following cases, can I omit the past perfect tense? Since they are about past experiences or the lack of it.

He had led the annual event over 5 times before he was appointed the organizer.

He hadn't heard the news prior to his return to the States. (or should I use had never heard? or both are okay?)

He had never seen a 3D movie before Avatar came out. (or use had not? or both are okay?)
Past perfect is not necessary to understand the proper order of events in those sentences, but another use of the verb form is to emphasize the precedence of the earlier action; that would be a reasonable use of it in the first and third sentences at least.
So its wrong to use past simple tense for sentence 1 and 3?

He never saw a 3D movie before Avatar came out. (is this wrong or just best to avoid it?)

He didn't see a 3D movie before Avatar came out. (this one sounds very wrong to me)

Why is the 2nd sentence able to omit the use of the past perfect?
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None are 'wrong' or 'right'; all could appear with either verb form. It depends on the writer's approach and what s/he is trying to say
To muddy the waters a bit more, here's the link http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfect.html to a page that says "If the Past Perfect is not referring to an action at a specific time, Past Perfect is not optional".

This means that the past perfect in #3 is not optional (according to that page).

I also checked my grammar book and couldn't find anything conclusive although it does give some examples with "before" which must use Past Perfect (some of those examples are in contrast to what I have read previously on the subject).
"If the Past Perfect is not referring to an action at a specific time, Past Perfect is not optional. Compare the examples below. Here Past Perfect is referring to a lack of experience rather than an action at a specific time. For this reason, Simple Past cannot be used.


  • She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska. Not Correct
  • She had never seen a bear before she moved to Alaska. Correct"

    That is from English page.

    If that is so, isn't sentence #2 similar? Granted, it not an entire lifetime of not hearing the news.

    Lets just say that because it is talking about an experience or lack of it during "an entire" stretch of time before the past action ocurred, so we shouldn't forgo the usage of the past perfect.

    Sentence #2 is muddy because the action that caused the news didn't happen until a relatively close time to the action of returning to the States? I just don't get it....

    One of the questions I wrote (after reading it and thinking it over) confused myself of whether it should use past perfect or past simple.

    They (take) ___________________ four mock exams before they tried to tackle the real one.

    So, what is the verdict on this one?

    PS. I am making questions for elementary and middle school students, therefore muddy rules are better than none (having to rely on experience or the expression the writer is trying to convey will simply end up in total disaster)

    Can someone give me a more or less common usage with this topic?
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Don't know why my previous post turned into Italic form.
I have already given you my opinion, and I see no reason to amend it. I find the EnglishPage rule ridiculous.
  • Pluperfect of state, where the consequence of some event is associated with that event during a narration in the past tense : "He saw that the door had opened, and children were running through it." is nearly the same as "...He saw that the door was open, and children...” A pluperfect of state is, in association to the fact of the action, midway between the past tense (the door opened yesterday) and the predicate adjective that is the past participle (the door was open since yesterday).
  • Pluperfect of action, where a series of pluperfect sentences carry a narration. This pluperfect is allied more closely to the usual preterite in English. It serves only to place a narration in the "more distant past", without determining its particular time or duration, as follows: "He had risen early that morning and had drunk coffee earlier than usual."
-From Wikipedia

So the past perfect, is more of a narrative technique than a absolute grammar construction when dealing with two or more past events?

It is used for emphasis or in a narrative/speech to give the correct order when one wants to or forgets to mention a preceding event.

--> conclusion: There is not a absolute need for the past perfect in the English language, just makes it easier at times to put past events in the correct order

Is my interpretation correct? Sorry MC, I am just not sure of the uses of the past perfect.
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