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I saw this sentence in a dictionary as an example sentence:

These neighboring states had lived in concord for centuries.

Q u e s t i o n :Emotion: money

The sentence is in Past Perfect tense. And the reference of time is unclear. Can it stand alone when the sentence doesn't have any reference to time? as in:

They had lived there for years before 1800s. (PastPerfect)

They had been living there for years when Mongals came. (PastPerfectProgressive)

Quote source:

"The Past Perfect expresses an activity that was completed before another activity or time in the past."
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Comments  
Your examples and source are correct. You can use "for" plus time expression or "since" plus time expression.

It is with the present perfect that you cannot be specific as to when the action occured. [I have gone there for three years; I have gone there since 1990; but not I have gone there at 5:00 yesterday morning.]
I don't understand your answer. Why would the following be wrong:

These neighboring states lived in concord for centuries.

I would think that before you used "have," you should have at least two times listed.

Before the ascension of the new king, these neighboring states had lived in concord for centuries.
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Hi Ducks,

I think your instincts are right. In that first sentece, "had lived," I would assume that there was some context that makes the past perfect appropriate. Perhaps the sentence before talks about the war that broke out in the year X. Then the sentence makes it clear that their peaceful co-existence had existed for centuries prior to that. Your sentence simeply makes it very clear that the centuries of peace came before some other event that changed their relationship.
Grammar Geek,

Thank you for your explanation. It answered another question I had about context. I was wondering if the two times had to be listed in a single sentence. Your context-comment makes it clear that the time could carry over from an earlier sentence. So, thanks for that too.
akdomCan it stand alone when the sentence doesn't have any reference to time?
All sentences have some reference to time because all sentences have verbs. Verbs must be expressed in one tense or another. Example sentences in dictionaries are assumed to have been lifted from their original contexts, and it's up to the reader to provide the missing context that makes the example sentence make sense.

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"Food for thought" section.
akdomQuote source:

"The Past Perfect expresses an activity that was completed before another activity or time in the past."
Though generally true, it's worth considering, as an advanced exercise, that this is not universally true. If it were universally true, the past perfect could never occur in a before clause, and yet it occurs surprisingly often in before clauses.

CJ
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CalifJimf it were universally true, the past perfect could never occur in a before clause, and yet it occurs surprisingly often in before clauses.
Jim, would you please reveal something about it? Thank you in advance.

P.S. Does it come up when we need reconcile the sequence of tenses?

We got to the station before it had become dark (We got there and then it became dark). They are equal, aren't they?

Although getting to the station was earlier than becoming dark. It can addle certainly.Emotion: thinking
Fandorinwould you please reveal something about it?
Pattern 1. ... (had) ... before ...-ed.

Suppose you have two events, X and Y, and they occur in this order:

1. X occurs.
2. (later) Y occurs.

You have two choices.

X occurred before Y occurred. [before makes it clear what the order is.]

X had occurred before Y occurred. [more focus on the order in time]

Not: X occurred before Y had occurred. [The event that follows does not take the past perfect.]

Example:

1. The students entered the classroom.
2. The clock struck 10.

The students were not late because they (had) entered the classroom before the clock struck 10.
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Pattern 2. ... -ed ... before ... had ....

1. X occurs,
thus preventing the intended

2. Y occurs.

Example:

1. He left.
2. He announced the finalists. [intended but uncompleted action]
(Once he left, he could no longer announce the finalists. He did not announce the finalists.)

He was whisked away to his next appointment before he had announced the finalists.

So the before clause can contain the past perfect if it presents a situation that did not occur because the situation in the main clause prevented it.

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He lost the letter before he mailed it is somewhat anomalous. It says he lost it and then he mailed it, which is impossible. Similarly, He had lost the letter before he mailed it. This also says he lost it and then he mailed it. He lost the letter before he had mailed it means he lost it, and therefore was not able to mail it, which is the most likely intended meaning. This is more commonly expressed as He lost the letter before he (had) had a chance to mail it.

See also before past perfect tense , past tense.

CJ
Hi CJ,

Your explanation enlightens me. Could you please explain  pattern 3

I had seen him before he had seen me.

Thanks!!
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