Hello,

I read this on a site about the diffrence between past simple and past perfect and I got so confused.

"Before" as well can either be used with Simple Past or Past Perfect. If the action after "before" is a new action, use Simple Past. If the action after "before" started (and was not completed) before a certain time in the past, use Past Perfect. Compare the following examples: Example:1.Jane had read a lot about elephants before she went to the zoo. (First she read and then went to the zoo)2.Jane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about elephants. This is how I understand the second sentence;According to the second sentence Jane first went to the zoo and then finished reading her new book, If I am right. She was reading her new book then she stopped reading it and went to the zoo. So the action is not completed yet. Then she came back and finished reading it. It seems to me that the action is completed and she finished reading it..Is it possible to say; ' Jane had gone to the zoo before she finished reading her new book?' Instead of what they say in the second sentence?I am still not sure if the action is completed.Thank you
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MikkaIs it possible to say; ' Jane had gone to the zoo before she finished reading her new book?' Instead of what they say in the second sentence?
In my opinion, this would be grammatical.
Whether or not she later finished the book does not affect the grammar. (I agree that we don't know if she did.)

You could also say, "Jane [had] died before she [had] finished reading her new book."

In my opinion, both can be past simple; both can be past perfect; either one can be past simple and the other past perfect.
Hello,

According to what they say these two sentences are diffrent. But I don't understand the difference between them. I am glad to hear that wheather or not she did it later doesn't affect the grammar.

Maybe their examples are wrong. But what about the actions that aren't completed? Generally there is a grammar rule with an example below. They gave two different rules but examples are the same.

Why do they think it affects grammar? Emotion: tongue tied And are these examples the same or they only seem to be so?

Thank you
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MikkaJane had read a lot about elephants before she went to the zoo. (First she read and then went to the zoo)
Correct.

MikkaJane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about elephants. This is how I understand the second sentence;According to the second sentence Jane first went to the zoo and then finished reading her new book, If I am right.
No. This is not right. The meaning is this:

Jane was reading her book about elephants, but she did not finish reading the book. Then she went to the zoo, and at the time she went to the zoo, the book remained unfinished.

There is nothing in the sentence that says she finished reading the book, either at the zoo or after returning from the zoo. After reading that sentence, we still don't have any answer to the question, "Did she finish the book?" We just don't know what happened next.

MikkaIs it possible to say; ' Jane had gone to the zoo before she finished reading her new book?'
This is also possible, and the meaning is the same, but the formulation given above is more usual in my opinion.

See before past perfect tense , past tense

CJ
Mikka1.Jane had read a lot about elephants before she went to the zoo.
2.Jane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about elephants.
MikkaAnd are these examples the same or they only seem to be so?
The two sentences are clearly different. The actual information is different as well as the grammar. I'm not exactly sure what you're asking.

The first sentence tells us nothing about the source of her information, except that it was ample and was in print.

The second one refers to a single specific book.

If you change the first sentence from past perfect to past simple, it will then imply that the actions occurred in sequence. Perhaps she read the material with her zoo trip in mind. (It was a plan.)

The past perfect doesn't carry this implication, in my opinion.

But this really has more to do with a native speaker's experience with the type of facts involved, than it has to do with the grammar. You couldn't generalize this tense shift to apply to all cases.

Edit. I agree with CJ that in example #2, where one past event (A) occurs to prevent the completion of another past event (B), the preferred style is to use past simple for (A) and past perfect for (B).

She stopped me before I had gone too far.

Before I had given my answer, the buzzer went off! (Before I could give my answer, the buzzer went off.)

Past simple for both actions doesn't seem to work in this case:

***Before I gave my answer, the buzzer went off.*** (I never gave my answer!)

Before I left for school, I took a shower. Okay with both as past simple.

But the difference is logical, not grammatical.

When both actions are expressed in past simple, we assume both took place.

Our knowledge that "I never gave my answer" is based on our understanding of the circumstances, not on grammar.

So we reason that past simple is not appropriate.
So in order to show that the action remained unfinished native speakers use past perfect with it.

Like in this sentence; Jane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about elephants.

Maybe past perfect is a signal for non-native speakers that the action is not finished.

As far as I understood either past simple or past perfect can be used in this case and in situations like this one; Before I left for school, I took a shower. Or I had taken a shower.
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I didn't read it properly and missed your edited part.

So Past simple for both actions is used when we know that both of them happened.

I watched a movie before he came.

If we know that one of the actions took place earlier then we would use past perfect with it.

I had watched a movie before he came. But doesn't 'before' show that the action; 'I had watched a movie' happened first and then he came? Maybe it is not necessary to use past perfect at all?

And it would be the same with this sentence too, am I right? 'I read a book before I went to bed.'

And it is not a mistake to say; 'I had taken a shower before I left for school' and not 'before I had left for school, I took a shower.' I am not a native speaker, unfortunately but this doesn't make sense to me.

'Before I had left for school... something could have happened but not this; I took a shower'.
Do you mean the meaning of this sentence 'Jane had gone to the zoo before she finished reading her new book' is the same as the meaning of this one; Jane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about elephants?'

By the way, if we write first 'before she finished reading her new book' and then add 'Jane had gone to the zoo' will it change the meaning of the sentence?

And if we change the second sentence( Jane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about elephants) in this way too will the meaning change?

Thanks
Hi, Mikka,

You're covering a lot of material here.

I don't want to get in trouble by making general statements which have lots of specific exceptions! Emotion: big smile

It's certainly true that if you use plenty of adverbs of time, you don't need the past perfect.

An exception seems to be the case in which we know or wish to imply that one of the actions was not completed.

(Did you read CJ's references on this?)

Before I could lock the door, she came bursting in.

Before I had locked the door, she came bursting in. (past perfect)

Before I locked the door she came bursting in. (past simple) This implies that I locked it afterward, but that's not what we mean.
MikkaSo Past simple for both actions is used when we know that both of them happened.
This is a bit too general.

I'd say, we don't use past simple for both actions when we know that one of them didn't happen.

Otherwise, you're free to use combinations of past simple, past perfect, and adverbs of time.

The shower example has me puzzled at the moment. I'm not quite sure why. Emotion: headbang

Before I left for school, I took a shower. OK

I took a shower before I left for school. Ok

Before I left for school, I had taken a shower. Ok

I had taken a shower before I left for school. Ok

(past tense context) Yesterday I was late for class. Before I had left for school, I had taken a shower. Ok

I'm inclined to agree with you. We can't use past simple for an action which precedes a past perfectaction in time. Emotion: embarrassed
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