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Hi,

Do we have to use a past perfect tense when an event or action has occurred before some action or event, except for cases where sentences have words like 'before' and 'after'?

Mr. Wordy wrote this in one of his responding posts.

It should be:

He looked as if he had seen a ghost.

The seeing of the ghost occurred before he looked the way he did (presumably), so you need "had seen".

So, reiterate my question, if an action/event occurred before an action or event, does it have to be in past perfect except those two cases mentioned?

Until I came here, I had given it a thought.-- It seems very clear in this that a thought occurred before his coming, so would you say a past perfect tense is a must here -- havr to be used??
Comments  
He looked as if he had seen a ghost.
This is more complicated, because he had seen in this context is not past perfect indicative, but past perfect subjunctive mood here (they have the same form)
Read my posts in that thread:
as if + backshift
where I'm saying among others:
Some prefer to concentrate on the mood here, and forget about the sequence of verbs, because when you have modality around, the tenses/timing are a bit mudied .... and I think that's a reasonable point of view.
Until I came here, I had given it a thought.
Yes, this is all indicative mood, and I think you need past perfect here, to make clear the sequence of actions.
BTW, start to distinguish your examples from your commentary, say by italicization, etc.
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AnonymousDo we have to use a past perfect tense when an event or action has occurred before some action or event, except for cases where sentences have words like 'before' and 'after'?
No. We say: When he arrived, he noticed that the window was open. Even though the arriving happened before the noticing, there is no past perfect in this sentence. Often just the order of the narrative indicates the order of the events in time.
Others:
Gerald awoke suddenly that morning and jumped out of bed.
The plane taxied down the runway and took off.
As soon as I saw that the meat was spoiled, I threw it away.
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until doesn't necessarily require a past perfect either. In fact, to my ear, it often sounds better without a past perfect in the sentence.

Until I came here, I had given it some thought.

Until I came here, I gave it some thought.
Peter didn't say anything until he was ready.
Peter hadn't said anything until he was ready.
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The reasoning behind your other example is different. To preserve the 'sequence of tenses' you only have a limited number of choices.
Either you are talking about how he looks now or how he looked in the past as the result of some earlier event that caused him to look a certain way.
He looks as if he has seen a ghost.
He looked as if he had seen a ghost.

Or you are talking about how he looks now or how he looked in the past as the result of a state or activity happening at the same time.
He looks as if he is staring at a ghost.
He looked as if he was staring at a ghost.
In any case, the sequence of tenses is usually observed in such statements.
as if is nevertheless very flexible, so you will find a variety of tense combinations with it.

CJ
CalifJim
He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

Is there any difference in meaning between the two sentences?

Many thanks.
Yoong LiatIs there any difference in meaning between the two sentences?
I don't sense any significant difference on a quick reading, although the second seems to include an unnecessary backshift that is hard to justify without trying to wrap my head around something strangely subjunctive going on there! I don't think I would spontaneously generate the second one, even though it does not seem obviously wrong. Emotion: smile
CJ
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Many thanks, CJ.
Thank you. What I have trouble with is the situations that do not come up clearly as to whether they require a past perfect or not, or as you seem to have said something to the effect that the order tells the sequence. How can I acquire that ability to distinguish a situation that requires a past perfect or leave the order to do the job???

You wrote:
We say: When he arrived, he noticed that the window was open. Even though the arriving happened before the noticing, there is no past perfect in this sentence. Often just the order of the narrative indicates the order of the events in time.

Others:

Gerald awoke suddenly that morning and jumped out of bed.

The plane taxied down the runway and took off.

As soon as I saw that the meat was spoiled, I threw it away.

Would you say this is one of those situations that we can use a past perfect or rephrase (with a past)??

They went overseas. Finally they came back. Two years had passed since they went away. Yet, they all grew up to be fine men.

Repheasing the necessary part:

They went overseas. Finally they came back. Two years was passed after (since --OK??) they went away. Yet, they all grew up to be fine men.