[Grammar] Assuming she was his ex, is 'had' optional in 'He said he (had) left her'?

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Matthew Wai

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Assuming she was his ex, is 'had' optional in 'He said he (had) left her'?
I think the sequence is clear without the past perfect.
 

Tarheel

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He said he left her.

I don't how you justify the use of "had" there.
 

Matthew Wai

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'He left her' happened before 'he said'.
He said so after he left her.
 

Tarheel

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Absent any additional context....
 
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