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"Before the storm had ended/ended but after the worst had been/was over, the captain radioed for help."

I need help figuring out the correct aspects for the two pairs of verbs in bold.

I understand that normally 'before' uses the simple past, while the main clause uses the past perfect, but that in this sentence the tenses should be reversed (had ended, radioed). I think I understand why, though I can't put my understanding into words.

Can you please tell me the correct tenses and why they are?
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Comments  
Before the storm had ended but after the worst was over, the captain radioed for help.

I think this is the correct combination. The Past Perfect here doesn't show (as it usually does) that an event took place earlier in the past than another one but it emphasizes the notion of completeness. It is only like that with 'before'.

More to the point, before an action in Past Perfect is complete something else happenes that may or may not prevent the Past Perfect action from coming to an end.
MichalSBefore the storm had ended but after the worst was over, the captain radioed for help.

I think this is the correct combination. The Past Perfect here doesn't show (as it usually does) that an event took place earlier in the past than another one but it emphasizes the notion of completeness. It is only like that with 'before'.

More to the point, before an action in Past Perfect is complete something else happenes that may or may not prevent the Past Perfect action from coming to an end.

Thanks, that was the explanation I couldn't put to paper.

Why did you choose 'was' for the second verb?

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English 1b3Why did you choose 'was' for the second verb?
The time sequence in this sentence is blurred by the unusual usage of the Past Perfect anyway and I felt there was no need to cloud it even more with another (this time usual) Past Perfect usage, as that would result in the same tense used after both 'before' and 'after', which could render the sentence quite unreadable.

Another reason for using the Past Simple in 'after the worst was over' is that the time sequence in "After the worst was over, the captain radioed for help" is perfectly transparent without using the Past Perfect in the subordinate clause, and this is thanks to the word 'after', which is able to show the time sequence itself without having to resort to the Past Perfect. I'm not advocating using only the Past Simple in sentences of this kind; I'd rather say "After the worst had been over, the captain radioed for help" if it was the whole sentence. I'm only saying that it is (grammatically) possible not to have the Past Perfect here and taking into consideration the complexity of the original sentence, I would want to avoid it.
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By the way, I've just found an explanation of this exceptional Past Perfect usage in A Practical English Grammar by Thomson and Martinet (Fourth edition, p. 177.) and it says that "in till/until + Past Perfect + simple past combinations the simple past action may precede the past perfect action; and in before + past perfect + simple past combinations the simple past action will always precede the past perfect action:

He refused to go till he had seen all the pictures.
He did not wait till we had finished our meal.
Before we had finished our meal he ordered us back to work.
Before we had walked 10 miles he complained of sore feet.

So apparently it works even with until and till. Emotion: smile
English 1b3Why did you choose 'was' for the second verb?
I agree with MichalS's version, but my explanation would different: "to end" is an active verb, while "to be over" is passive — that's why the first is used in the Past Perfect tense and the second in the Past Simple.

EDIT: You could as well have written:
«Before the storm was over but after the worst was passed, the captain radioed for help.»,
using passive constructions for both "storm" and "the worst".
MichalSThe time sequence in this sentence is blurred by the unusual usage of the Past Perfect anyway and I felt there was no need to cloud it even more with another (this time usual) Past Perfect usage, as that would result in the same tense used after both 'before' and 'after', which could render the sentence quite unreadable.

I agree.
MichalS
By the way, I've just found an explanation of this exceptional Past Perfect usage in A Practical English Grammar by Thomson and Martinet (Fourth edition, p. 177.) and it says that "in till/until + Past Perfect + simple past combinations the simple past action may precede the past perfect action; and in before + past perfect + simple past combinations the simple past action will always precede the past perfect action:

He refused to go till he had seen all the pictures.

He did not wait till we had finished our meal.

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

Before we had walked 10 miles he complained of sore feet

Ah, so it's not just the deceptive 'before' after all!

It's too late for me to try and differentiate between the meaning of these two Emotion: sad

He refused to go till he had seen all the pictures

and

He had refused to go till he saw all the pictures.
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English 1b3It's too late for me to try and differentiate between the meaning of these two
Where do you live?

English 1b3He refused to go till he had seen all the pictures

and

He had refused to go till he saw all the pictures.

I don't know if the second one is possible at all. [:^)] But if you're still wondering about using the past perfect instead of past simple in "He refused to go till he had seen all the pictures", I can offer you another clarification I've just thought about.

It has just struck me that there's nothing really exceptional about using the Past Perfect here as we have a corresponding structure in the present tense. Consider these two:

I refuse to/won't go until/till I see all the pictures.
vs.
I refuse to/won't go until/till I have seen all the pictures.

The difference between the two is nothing more than that of "emphasis of completion" put on the second one - one action must be complete in order for another one to take place. The same is probably true in the past:

He refused to/wouldn't go until/till he saw all the pictures.
vs.
He refused to/wouldn't go until/till he had seen all the pictures.
MichalS
He refused to/wouldn't go until/till he saw all the pictures.

vs.

He refused to/wouldn't go until/till he had seen all the pictures.


He had refused to go until he saw all the pictures.

Why can't this work? If your first example works, then wouldn't this be OK too (he refused first, then saw)

I live in Australasia, so it was past midnight when I sent the last post. My mind is so blurred that late.
English 1b3I live in Australasia, so it was past midnight when I sent the last post. My mind is so blurred that late.
Yeah, I understood that but I just wanted to know where you are given that your time zone is completely different to mine. I live in Central Europe and it was quite late when you wrote back and I also can't think straight at late hours.Emotion: smile
English 1b3If your first example works
I think it may work but who knows (apart from CJ of course Emotion: big smile). That was only a guess based on the existence of the equivalent form in the present tense.
English 1b3He had refused to go until he saw all the pictures.
Why can't this work? [...] (he refused first, then saw)

I don't know! It may but I just though that it could be considered ill-formed by native speakers (aren't you one?) as they would probably expect the past simple to come first and past perfect next. Of course, I'm considering this particular sentence on its own merits. But then again, if it works fine I won't be surprised. Emotion: smile

You know I'm wondering what would be a native speaker's reaction to all of those examples:

A: He refused to go until he had seen all the pictures.
B: He had refused to go until he saw all the pictures.
C: He refused to go until he saw all the pictures.

If we knew that we could get the picture.

Michał

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