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I’m not sure when to use past tense and when to use past perfect tense. For number 1 and 2, my answers are met and went, but the correct answers are had met and had gone. Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks!



Jack came home at twelve last night. He 1 (meet) a friend in the street at six o’clock and 2 (go) to the movies with her. When he got home, the house was dark. Everyone had gone to bed.
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Anonymous I’m not sure when to use past tense and when to use past perfect tense. For number 1 and 2, my answers are met and went, but the correct answers are had met and had gone. Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks!



Jack came home at twelve last night. He 1 (meet) a friend in the street at six o’clock and 2 (go) to the movies with her. When he got home, the house was dark. Everyone had gone to bed.
The actions in question happened before another action in the past (came home).
Hi, Philip.

I sometimes am confused about a real need to comply with the sequence like something happened before this and happened after that for a perfect tense. I was reading an article titled "Lake Tahoe wildfire forces evacuations" written by Aaron Davis of the Associated Press in YAHOO! NEWS section and some paragraphes there seem be showing mixed uses between the past perfect and past (at least to me, that is). All the actions or processes underlined iseem to have happened before the other or others.

A raging wire fire near Lake Tahoe forced hundreds of residents to flee towering flames that destroyed more than 200 buildings, turned the sky orange and fouled the lake's famously clear waters with falling ash.

... The blaze had scorched almost 2,500 acres -- nearly 4 square miles -- but by early Monday evening fire officials said the blaze was about 40 percent contained. Full containment was expected by Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Would you say that a writer can go back and forth from past perfect to past by reflecting on whether he is writing a particular sentence in reflection of some time event or events that make that particular sentence past perfect or past? Would you say that for 'had scorched', Mr. Davis, the person who wrote this article, was confident that the blaze he was wrting was the very blaze that happend before something else; and the other two uses of past tense are due to the fact, Mr. Davis wasn't seeing a time referencee back to some specific event that might create a need to use a perfect perfect tense for the two?

So in corollary, would you say it is safe to use both past perfect and past tenses when writing about something that happened in the past as long as you abide by this 'perception' (I made this up) rule: when you see a clear time reference as to what happened is before some event, then a person has to rely on past perfect; for others, mostly a past tense will be satisfactory?
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Your last para seems true, Believer.
Anonymous I’m not sure when to use past tense and when to use past perfect tense. For number 1 and 2, my answers are met and went, but the correct answers are had met and had gone. Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks!



Jack came home at twelve last night. He 1 (meet) a friend in the street at six o’clock and 2 (go) to the movies with her. When he got home, the house was dark. Everyone had gone to bed.



Anon,

In the simplest term, use past tense when the situation is one past event.

I,e. I went to the movie with Mary last night.

Use past perfect when the situation involves 2 or more events with one preceding another.

I.e. We’d already left the house before John called.

I worked until 9 last night. –simple past

I had given many loyal years of service to this company before I realized the management would never have allowed an Asian to be the . – Past perfect.

Anonymous I’m not sure when to use past tense and when to use past perfect tense. For number 1 and 2, my answers are met and went, but the correct answers are had met and had gone. Can anyone explain it to me? Thanks!



Jack came home at twelve last night. He 1 (meet) a friend in the street at six o’clock and 2 (go) to the movies with her. When he got home, the house was dark. Everyone had gone to bed.
Hi Anon

You don't always need the past perfect. Often the order of past events is clear without it. The order of past events can be made clear by other words in the sentence or even by the order in which sentences are said/written. In the example you gave, there are no other words which clearly state the order of the events (words such as 'before', 'after', 'later', etc.). The past events are also not related in the order in which they happened. The past events in your little story could be put in order and rewritten this way:

Jack met a friend in the street at six o'clock yesterday evening. They went to the movies. While Jack and his friend were at the movies, everyone went to bed at his house. When Jack got home, the house was dark.

That version of the story is not as elegant as the original. However, in order to make the time sequence clear, the original version needs the past perfect.

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@Goodman

Sentences containing "sequencing" words such as 'before' are among the ones most likely to not need the past perfect:

We left the house before John called.
John called after we left the house.
I gave many years of loyal service to this company before I realized that I would never become CEO.

The order of the past events is quite clear in the sentences above, so the past perfect is not absolutely necessary. The past perfect is optional (not required) in the three sentences above -- even in formal English.
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Hi Yank,

I agree with what you said. In many daily situations, the order of events is self-explanatory by the way we used the words and past perfect in many cases are not necessary. I just wanted to use it to demonstrate. To reassure my own understanding, I did a little research and found this:

My perspective is that what is correct and considered literal English depends on where you are and how you use it in many instances. As far as past perfect is concerned, at least we agree that “sometimes” it’s not necessary. However, if I said “I studied French for 2 years before I moved to
Hi Goodman

What in the world is "more correct" supposed to mean?
Grammatically, "I studied French for two years before I moved to France" is just fine.
The use of the past perfect can sound more formal, but it's definitely not the case that not using the past perfect is automatically "slightly incorrect".

The word "when" frequently needs the past perfect because otherwise the order of events may be misunderstood or unclear.
The order of the events in the following two sentences is not the same:
- When the telephone rang, I just closed my eyes.
- When the telephone rang, I had just closed my eyes.

But there is absolutely no reason under the sun that someone must say this:
"I had stopped at an ATM
before I took my friends out to lunch."

You can use the past perfect in the sentence above, but you certainly don't have to.

Saying "I stopped at an ATM before I took my friends out to lunch." is perfectly adequate. The word 'before' makes it perfectly clear what happened first.


Hi Yank,

This is an example from an authenticated English site, not something I have made up. Just for the sake of learning, If I were a learner to ask you this question “ which one should I use and is considered correct? What would you tell me? I have no problem with just a simple past tense in daily usage. Based on a given context, one has to be considered "more correct" . or should I say "more used" but not necessarily correct. Is this logic acceptable to you?



But there is absolutely no reason under the sun that someone must say this:
"I had stopped at an ATM before I took my friends out to lunch."


Regardless of reason, if going by the book, would you say this is the correct grammar?

You can use the past perfect in the sentence above, but you certainly don't have to.

Saying "I stopped at an ATM before I took my friends out to lunch." is perfectly adequate. The word 'before' makes it perfectly clear what happened first.


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