After we had done action ONE, we did action TWO. I felt pity I had not done something.

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kachibi

Senior Member
Chinese
Say if I report what I did yesterday in a shopping mall to other people, and usually we will use "after" and "before", or sometimes on that past day we would reflect on things we had done on that day. So when we were taught tenses as students, we were told that if one sentence contains two sequential action, for the earlier action we used an "older" tense i.e., past perfect, while for the later action, past tense. For example:

Last week I went on hiking with my friend. After we had reached City A (the mountain is in this city) by car, we went to Mountain A by foot. However, I did not feel very well suddenly and I chose not to hike eventually. I felt pity that I had not climbed Mountain A.

First, if I use "after" (like I use "before") like the above--which involves the first step and then the second step, is it a must to use two tenses respectively?

Second, if on that past day, I felt or reflected on something that I had not done previously on that day, is it also a must to use two tenses to show "felt" is a later action, while "not do something" is an older action?

Or, I can simply use SIMPLE PAST TENSE throughout this kind of past recount without any problem?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Your reasoning seems a bit muddled. It’s difficult to work out what you mean without a specific example.

    The past perfect is used to describe an action that had already happened, or something that was already the case, before whatever else you’re describing in the past tense.

    If the fact that one thing happened before another is perfectly clear anyway – from the use of words like before and after, or otherwise from the context – then the past perfect may be “overkill”. In other words, you don’t need to use the past perfect if what it conveys is already obvious. In many cases, either the simple past or the past perfect works fine.
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I see, that means, even if action A came first, the following are both correct since "after" is clear enough to tell the sequence of the actions:

    After I did action A, I did action B.
    After I had done action A, I did action B.


    Correct?

    And for the one about reflection, since it does not involve "after" or "before", I should ONLY use PAST PERFECT if that action happened before what I feel:

    I felt a pity I had not done A.
    I felt a pity I did not do A. X


    Correct?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, in the case of your A and B examples. The context would govern which version to use.

    Your pity sentence is incorrect English, so I can’t comment on it.
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks, lingobingo. Let's forget about "pity", and see another reflection-type sentence below:

    I felt regret I had not done A.

    So, if yesterday, I did action A, and after that, I felt regret. So without "after" and "before", I can only use past perfect here.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That’s not idomatic either. It would most likely be expressed as I regretted not doing it or I regretted that I hadn’t done it.

    I’m sure lots of people would also say I regretted that I didn’t do it.
     

    kachibi

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I regretted that I hadn’t done it. << this one apparently has the function of specifying the sequence of events.

    How about this one: I regretted that I did not do it?

    I guess one possibility is that it means someone regretted and did not do something at the same time (though I cannot think of someone felt and did something at the same time, I think there is such possibility).

    But is this particular sentence also applicable to an earlier action that came before I felt regret? If yes, so do you want to mean that actually for reflection-type sentences in which someone reflected on some earlier actions in the past, one can also use PAST TENSE or PAST PERFECT interchangeably, like the "after" and "before" issue we discussed at the beginning?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You’re missing the point. It’s a waste of time trying to pick that sentence to pieces in order to explain or justify it. It’s not textbook English when presented out of context. It’s just something you might very well come across – especially as part of a statement such as “I regret that I didn’t do it sooner”.
     
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