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A: How was your flight?

B: It was fine. However, the food they gave us was awful.


Is the bold-faced part correct? Would the past perfect be correct too? Is there a difference between that sentence and "I thought the food they gave us was awful"? Because the thinking obviously happened after the giving, so shouldn't I use "they had given us"? Thank you.

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Yes "the food they gave us" is correct. And no, past perfect would not be correct here because there is no later past event.

As for your other sentence, "I thought the food they gave us was awful," you could probably go with either. Getting the food and thinking it bad could be the same event rather than two separate events.

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Necrophagistthe thinking obviously happened after the giving

Here is the key point. When the sequence of events is obvious, there is no need for the past perfect tense.

The past perfect is not wrong, but it is unusual to use it when it's not necessary, especially in ordinary conversation or casual writing.

CJ