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    #1

    Before + past perfect /past simple

    Hello


    I was told I can create sentences like:


    - Before I met him he had contacted/he contacted the company.

    Both past perfect and past simple are ok.

    However I was told that in the following sentence below there should be past perfect (here the continuous form) and past simple would be wrong.

    - Before he realized he was alone he had been driving for 8 hours.

    My question is what makes it that much different that once it is up to me which tense I will choose and then there is the same construction but only one option is correct. As a non native speaker I would like to know the grammatically correct use.


    Would it be possible to help me with three more sentences?

    - Before he went out he had found it.

    - Before I was allowed to work with them I had read 50 books to know more details about it

    - Before Conan Doyle became a writer he had studied a medicine.

    Following grammar rules could I use past simple in the second parts of these sentences?


    Thank you very much ;)
    Last edited by Dominik92; 30-Dec-2015 at 01:31.

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    Just in general, when you use the word "before" in a sentence, the past perfect is not necessary. That does not mean that it is wrong, but the simple past will work. The past perfect usually functions to stage events that happened in the past. Adverbs like "before" do that.

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    #3

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Just in general, when you use the word "before" in a sentence, the past perfect is not necessary.

    I am so happy to hear that! I thought it worked this way.

    I have to admit that I started almost identical thread on another forum - however I got totally different answers. To me your advice seems the most logical and it is something I was looking for. I have always been taught that before allows to decide between past simple and past perfect in most cases. That is obvious that sometimes there will be a sentence where only one of these tenses will be appropriate more. But it really surprised me when I was told that e.g. "Before I met him he contacted the company." is more colloquial rather than the "correct" use. Please, what do you think about the advice I was given on the another forum? As a non- native speaker IŽd like to learn grammatically correct use of these tenses.

    1) Before I met him he had contacted/contacted the company.

    1) had contacted - second event preceded the first.


    Do you wish to know grammatical or colloquial? It is not that you won't hear double simple past because you will. Grammatically though, it should be
    past perfect action precedes simple past action unless it is just a list of actions that occurred in the past. Yesterday I exercised, read a book and swam 20 laps.
    Last edited by Dominik92; 30-Dec-2015 at 07:47.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    Well, the use of tenses will vary from person to person. I don't like overusing perfect tenses. They are great when they are needed. The use of the simple past is no less grammatical than the use of the past perfect in your sentence.

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    #5

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    As you said it varies from person to person but still....


    What do you think that leads my teacher to say that it is perfectly OK to say " "Before I met him he contacted/had contacted the company." - both tenses are ok. On the other hand , in her opinion, it would be a mistake to say e.g. " Before he realized he was alone he drove a car for 8 hours." ? She would use " had been driving" only.

    I know I had better ask her but she doesnŽt know how to explain it. For me it is very confusing situation as I have two almost identical structures with before however in the latter example there is no room for past simple. It would help me to know the reason why these sentences differ.
    Last edited by Dominik92; 30-Dec-2015 at 08:30. Reason: lead - leads

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    I disagree with your teacher. The second sentence is correct. She probably suggested "had been driving" because of the eight hour period.

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    #7

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    But "had been driving for 8 hours" is also possible, isn't it? With a difference in emphasise?I would use the past perfect progressive when telling/writing a story.....

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    #8

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    Yes, the progressive form is perfectly acceptable.

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    #9

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    I know there is the "thank you" button but I have to thank you again. I am so grateful that you found some of your time to answer all my questions here.

    It really confused me as the native speakers from the WR forum found it as a colloquial use of past simple.

    My last question: Which tense would you prefer?( in the last driving sentence) past perfect cont. or past simple?

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    #10

    Re: Before + past perfect /past simple

    The choice of tense in this case depends entirely on what you are actually describing. If he was still driving/was still in the car/had just left it when he realized that he was alone, the past perfect continuous seems the correct choice. If he had driven for eight hours and maybe done other things, or more time had elapsed before making that realization, then the simple past would work perfectly.
    I am not a teacher

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