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A: We were shocked to learn that only a few people (were/had been) at the event.

B: We were shocked to learn that only a few people

(attended/had attended) at the party.

Which tense would you likely use in the sentences above?

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teacherJapanWhich tense

I'd use the simple past (were; attended) unless there were a reason to show that the poor attendance occurred before some other situation previously mentioned in the text or conversation — not that I can think of a good example of how that might happen. Maybe something like this, telling the story a month later:

The next morning, we went there to clean the place. Would you believe it? Most of the food was still there. We were shocked that so few people had attended the party.

CJ

Comments  
teacherJapanWhich tense would you likely use in the sentences above?

Unless I had my grammar hat on, I would use the simple past, but we Americans tend to do that. If I had my grammar hat on, I would observe the standard difference. "Were" means the event is on now. "Had been" means the event is over.

By the way, you attend a party, not attend at it.

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Sorry. I accidentally typed “attended at” because of the sentence above that. Thank you very much, anonymous.

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.

Thank you very much for your example, CJ! That makes perfect sense.

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