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Hello.
This is from James Blunt "Goodbye My Lover": "'Cause I saw the end before we'd begun...". Why is the past perfect used in the subordinate clause, i.e. after "before"? Shouldn't it be like "Cause I'd seen the end before we began..." to convey the meaning more accurately?
Thanks.
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Comments  
If the speaker saw the end before they began whatever they began, yes, your suggestion is better.

CB
Evidently, you don't seem to care too much about tense sequence. "Keep it simple!".... past simple.
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The Past Perfect can be used with before to emphasize the completion of an action, but note that in before + past perfect + simple past combinations the simple past action will always precede the past perfect action.

Before we had finished our meal he ordered us back to work.

Before we had walked ten miles he complained of sore feet.

A Practical English Grammar

Hope this helps.

Students are often led to believe that the past perfect must indicate a situation that existed before another. (This is true in general.) But, following this logic, it seems that the past perfect could never occur in a before clause. (It 'should' only occur in the main clause in such cases.)

But the use of the past perfect in a before clause is quite common regardless of the time sequence -- as in "I saw the end before we had begun". [There's usually some surprising logic and a hidden negative in these: I (already) saw the end (and that was surprising) because we had not (even) begun (yet). ]

Here are some others I found on various websites. Note the implied negatives. (had not yet ... when)

Mozart died before he had completed the Requiem Mass
. [He had not yet completed the Mass when he died..]
One of the fast things suddenly zoomed by from the left and was gone before he had even realized it was coming. [He had not yet realized it was coming when it zoomed by.]
Before he had finished speaking, another servant came in and said that dinner was ready. [He had not yet finished speaking when this happened.]
He was whisked away to his next appointment before he had announced the finalists. [He had not yet announced the finalists when he was whisked away.]
A terrible scream cleaved the air before he had walked very far. [He had not yet walked far when the scream was heard.]
Before he had even recovered, ten days later he tried suicide again. [He had not yet recovered when he tried suicide.]
He was surely the first man to be a senior official in the Ryder Cup before he had even played in the grand old match. [He had not yet played in that match when he became a senior official.]
_________

Compare with the "normal" sequence of tenses, with no implied negations:

Jack had met her at a business conference before he noticed her that night at the party.
Before they proceeded with their project they had planned every detail, of course.
The politicians had used every trick in the book to pass the bill before they finally gave up.
_________

I would not be surprised to learn that before with implied negation (with the past perfect) is used more than beforewith the normal sequence of tenses. Emotion: smile

CJ
Hi, Jim.

So I think we can safely assume

Past Perfect (action complete) + before + Simple Past

Simple Past + before + Past Perfect (action incomplete)
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Isn't it a Subjunctive Mood, is it?

So I think we can safely assume

Past Perfect (action complete) + before + Simple Past

Simple Past + before + Past Perfect (action incomplete)
It sounds reasonable, but any time someone comes up with a neat formula like that, it's time to get to work and find the counterexamples. Nothing will send people rushing to find these counterexamples faster than if I say (or someone else says) that yes, that's a 100% correct statement of the "rule"! Emotion: smile

That in mind, I would not say we can safely assume it. We can accept it provisionally until we see the counterexamples.

And anyway, are we really talking about an incomplete action, or about an action that never happened?

CJ
Yes, you can call it subjunctive mood.

CJ
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