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past simple / past perfect - She called after I finished / had finished

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by aldegunde, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. aldegunde Senior Member

    Spanish
    I'd like to know if sentences like the following are grammatically correct if you use the past simple instead of the past perfect:

    She called me after she finished her chores (instead of had finished)
    I read the book before I saw the movie (instead of I had read)

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. Chris K Senior Member

    Tacoma WA, US
    English / US
    Yes, they're both correct.
     
  3. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    I agree that they are correct, but I think the past perfect would also be correct in the first example. This is sort of a gray area of English grammar, in my opinion. I see lots of variation of use among good writers.

    In the second example, the past perfect would be incorrect because the temporal order would be wrong. However, it is possible to use the past perfect with "before" if you change the order of the tenses.

    They had left before I arrived.
    I hadn't eaten before I went to the interview.
     
  4. Jesusoulz

    Jesusoulz Senior Member

    Venezuela
    Español venezolano
    gengo, I don't see the structural difference between the sentences you've provided as examples and the second sentence provided by aldegunde (when changed to past perfect). I also don't understand why would the temporal order be wrong if we changed that second sentence to past perfect. I feel I'm missing something terribly obvious but I just can't find it. Would you mind explaining this to me?
     
  5. JennyTW Senior Member

    Córdoba, Spain
    English - UK
    Sorry, but I don't agree with you about the second sentence being incorrect. It's perfectly correct, and the temporal order is exactly the same as your last examples;


    I had read the book before I saw the movie = I read the book and later I saw the movie.


    They had left before I arrived. = They left and later I arrived
    I hadn't eaten before I went to the interview = I hadn't eaten and later I went to the interview
     
  6. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    Well, you may have me there. Sorry if I made this even more confusing. For some reason, the second sentence in the original post doesn't sound right to me i the past perfect tense, but I can't seem to find a grammatical reason, so you both may be right.

    As I said, whether or not to use the past perfect is often a gray area in English.
     
  7. IKI_75 Senior Member

    Bulgarian
    I am not a native speaker and I can only say that, according to the grammar books I have read, if the Past Perfect action did occur at a specific time, the Simple Past can be used instead of the Past Perfect when "before" or "after" is used in the sentence. The words "before" and "after" actually tell you what happens first, so the Past Perfect is optional. For this reason, both sentences below are correct.
    Examples:

    She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.
    She visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.

    However, if the Past Perfect is not referring to an action at a specific time, Past Perfect is not optional. Compare the examples below. Here Past Perfect is referring to a lack of experience rather than an action at a specific time. For this reason, Simple Past cannot be used.
    Examples:

    She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska. Not Correct
    She had never seen a bear before she moved to Alaska. Correct

    This is what grammar books say. The examples in the original post do not indicate a specific time but, as I can see in the posts above, they sound OK to native speakers. And if they sound OK to natives speakers, it means they are correct.

    Here is my conjecture. As far as the examples in the original post are concerned, I think that probably the past simple tense can be used instead of the past perfect (even though there is no specific time indicated) because the time between the two actions is not long. The actions happen one after another in short time.

    Compare:
    She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska. Not Correct
    She heard the bear before she opened the door of the cabin. Correct (At least I think it is correct).

    What do you think about my conjecture?
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  8. Chris K Senior Member

    Tacoma WA, US
    English / US
    I would regard "She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska" as both correct and common. The worst that might be said of it is that it is not as "literary" as saying "she had never seen..." I also think there's a tendency to use simple past + until and past perfect + before:

    She never saw a bear until she moved to Alaska.
    She had never seen a bear before she moved to Alaska.But that's a tendency, not a rigid rule.
     
  9. IKI_75 Senior Member

    Bulgarian
    Real life language is not always what grammar books say. Real life language is various.

    Chris K regards "She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska" as both correct and common even though grammar books say it is not correct. As I said in my previous post, if something sounds OK to native speakers, it means that it is correct.
    Well, it is possible that some native speakers from other parts of the English speaking world regard "She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska" as not correct but, as I said, real life language is various.
     
  10. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    It sounds reasonable, but in real-life English, it probably isn't followed very closely. And as for something being correct if it sounds right to native speakers, consider the following, which are all extremely common in US speech, but are all grammatically incorrect. Don't always trust the natives! Besides, your English is so good that you could probably teach grammar to most native speakers.

    Billy's laying on the floor again.
    The thing is, is that I don't want to go.
    Those type of cars are expensive to maintain.
    If I was a millionaire, I'd live in Bora Bora.
     
  11. IKI_75 Senior Member

    Bulgarian
    Thank you, gengo. Thank you for the kind words!
     

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