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In the following sentence, should 'finished' be used instead of 'had finished'?

He had finished the book last night before John came in. [I know that when time is stated (in this case 'last night'), we should not use the past perfect tense. Instead we use the simple past tense] as in the following sentence.

A stray dog killed my kitten last night.

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Hi,

should 'finished' be used instead of 'had finished'? Yes, in this example.



I know that when time is stated (in this case 'last night'), we should not use the past perfect tense. In other contexts, I'd hesitate to agree with this very general statement.

eg Last night, when I arrived at John's apartment, he had taken 20 sleeping pills. I called an ambulance.
<<I know that when time is stated (in this case 'last night'), we should not use the past perfect tense.>>
No. You mean present perfect tense.
The same does not apply to the past perfect tense.

CJ
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CalifJim<<I know that when time is stated (in this case 'last night'), we should not use the past perfect tense.>>
No. You mean present perfect tense.
The same does not apply to the past perfect tense.

CJ
He had finished the book last night before John came in. (The past perfect tense refers to this sentence.)
He finished the book last night before John came in.
Here I would not use had because the conjunction before already establishes the sequence.
If we change to when, then we need the past perfect, otherwise it might seem that he finished the book in the same instant as John came in, or even as a result of John's return. So:
He had finished the book last night when John came in. This was the situation that existed when John arrived.
Thanks, Lewis, for the lucid explanation.
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You'll be hard pressed to prove that main clauses never contain the past perfect when a before-clause is also present. In other words, it happens all the time. Why is that if before already establishes the time reference? Are all those writers wrong?

CJ
CJ, I think you're fighting imaginary enemies! I only expressed what sounds right to me, and why, in this particular sentence. I don't want to proclaim any universal rules. You say I'd be hard-pressed to prove etc: I wouldn't even try!
He had finished the book last night before John came in is not an abomination, but from my point of view as to style I consider the past perfect superfluous in this case.
Are all those writers wrong? No, I'm not saying that. The point is: do you at least agree that the sentences I quote are correct (without excluding other possibilities)?

JL
fighting imaginary enemies
No! It was more like teasing! I suppose I should have put a smiley after that post. Emotion: smile
I guess I'm wondering if -- again from the viewpoint of style -- you would ever find the past perfect necessary in such a pattern with before-- in spite of your reluctance to proclaim universal truths! Emotion: smile

For example, I'm wondering if the presence of a word like alreadytriggers our desire to use a past perfect. Or what other factors enter into the decision. Hmmm. Emotion: thinking

He had already done XYZ before ... vs. He already did XYZ before ...

CJ
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