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Hi.

Is there any difference between the following two sentences.

When he had eaten lunch, I came in.

When he ate lunch, I came in.

Grammatically speaking, past perfect should be used to describe an action that happened in the past before another action in the past , but the second one sounds correct to me as well.

Thanks for your help
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Hi.

Thank you dimsumexpress for your answer.

If I change the tense the meaning would be different too.

the common combination of past simple and past continuous indicates that one action happened in the middle of the other action. But I am talking about an action that finished in the past before another action, so past perfect should inevitably be used unless the events are uttered in chronological order.

Ex.1. He was eating lunch when I came in. (he was at the middle of eating when I came in)

Ex.2. He had eaten lunch when I came in. (He finished eating lunch before I came in)

Ex.3. He ate lunch when I came in.(He ate lunch after I came in)

The problem occurs when we bring the linking word when at the begining of the sentence.

Thanks
Comments  
hrsaneiWhen he had eaten lunch, I came in.
When he ate lunch, I came in.

When two past events can be described without the past perfect, it makes it simpler and easier for the reader. Your examples are understood but have that unnatural sound to it. Perhaps it's my perception. I would write: He was eating lunch when I came in.

If I use the same pattern as your sentence to form this one, it would sound quite strange: When I had taken a shower last night, the phone rang. But with a simple past progressive construction, it sounds and come across very clearly:

I was taking a shower when the phone rang. No past perfect needed.

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Hi.

Neither of your sentences is grammatically incorrect. However, the second implies that you came in while he was eating perhaps, and the first implies that he was finished eating by the time you came in.

Also, as dimsumexpress pointed out, if the intent is to say that you came in while he was eating, it might be more easily understood if it were worded differently.
 hrsanei's reply was promoted to an answer.
sboltonHi.Neither of your sentences is grammatically incorrect. However, the second implies that you came in while he was eating perhaps, and the first implies that he was finished eating by the time you came in.Also, as dimsumexpress pointed out, if the intent is to say that you came in while he was eating, it might be more easily understood if it were worded differently.
Thanks Sbolton for your response.

We have to use past continuous to indicate that one action happened while the other was in progress. And in my sentence, I don't have that intention.

Thanks
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hrsanei,
hrsaneiIf I change the tense the meaning would be different too.
, I don't think so. In fact, it made the sentence very clear.

hrsaneiEx.2. He had eaten lunch when I came in. (He finished eating lunch before I came in)

I am not going to repeat what I said in the past post. Your description of the perfect rules are correct. The problem is if the past perfect is used in all events that happened yesterday, you will be torturing your readers. I wouldn't say this sentence is wrong. I just suggested that past progressive is my choice.

Ex.3. He ate lunch when I came in.(He ate lunch after I came in) This sentence, is not wrong either, grammatically speaking. But the with "when " in the context, a simple past just sounds imcomplete to my ears. .
hrsaneiThe problem occurs when we bring the linking word when at the begining of the sentence.
We have to realized that "when" can be placed at the beginning of the dependent clause.

He was eating when I came in.

I came in when he was eating lunch. Both have identical meaning.

However, it is awkward construction if one writes " when he was eating I came in." That's not natural collocation.

I completely understand learners of foriegn origins depend on grammar rules and follow them to the every word.

But in natural English immersion environment, the rules are much more flexible and mind you there are exceptions and idioms which seems contrary to the rules. I have to agree, the concept of past perfect is easy to grasp. But using them correctly isn't so.

hrsaneiWe have to use past continuous to indicate that one action happened while the other was in progress. And in my sentence, I don't have that intention.
Whether that was your intent, the event had come to past.

Mine version: He was eating lunch when he came in. Yes, the eating was going on when he came in. But remember, both acts were also completed.

I agree with Sbolton's comments, both of your sentences had issues.