finished or had finished?

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Ajay Ghale

New Member
English - Kyrat
Hi everybody, I've got a question about the next sentence I found in an exercise
So this is the original sentence: We had to finish all the work before we could leave.
and this is the one which must be similar: We had to stay until we had finished all the work.
My question, Is it posible to use just finished or would that change the meaning of the sentence?
Thanks for reading, waiting for your answers.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Hello Ajay Ghale.

    Welcome to the forum. :)

    I would use the simple past [finished] in this sentence: We had to stay until we finished all the work.
    I wouldn't use the past perfect [had finished].

    I would use the past perfect in this sentence: We were allowed to leave when we had finished all the work.

    I am not certain everyone will agree with me. :)
     

    Ajay Ghale

    New Member
    English - Kyrat
    Hello Cagey, thanks for answering :)
    Yeah I agree with you, the thing is that the books says that the answer is with past perfect, but doesn't say why and that doesn't make sense to me and I got confused. But using simple past may be a posible answer and the book doesn't take into consideration. Thanks Cagey, I wanted to know someone's opinion who has been speaking English their whole life.
     

    WildWest

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Hello. Below is a sentence from a simplified version of The Talented Mr. Ripley published by Penguin Readers:

    "When Dickie had finished reading his letter - a letter that made him laugh out loud as he read it - Tom said, "Do you think Marge would like to go up to Paris with us when we go?"

    Is had really needed? I'd prefer to leave it as just finished. Would it work? On the other hand, I guess the structure had done functions as the past form of have done. You agree with that interpretation of mine?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    When the past perfect is used there, I think it gives a better idea of time having passed. It seems to slow down the action a little, implying that Dickie was occupied with the letter for some minutes.

    When Dickie finished reading his letter... suggests to me that as soon as Dickie finished reading the letter, Tom said...

    I'm not sure that I follow you when you say:
    I guess the structure had done functions as the past form of have done. You agree with that interpretation of mine?
    This isn't reported speech, where we would need to backshift the tense from "has done" to "had done".
     

    Fredziu

    Senior Member
    Polish
    We had to stay until we had finished all the work.
    the thing is that the books says that the answer is with past perfect, but doesn't say why and that doesn't make sense to me and I got confused
    As far as I know, in British English this is a perfectly correct sentence. I think the past simple (until we finished) can be used with no problem here, but the past perfect (until we had finished) emphasises the idea of completion, just as the present perfect does with reference to the future when talking about a present situation (We have to stay until we have finished all the work).
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hello. Below is a sentence from a simplified version of The Talented Mr. Ripley published by Penguin Readers:

    "When Dickie had finished reading his letter - a letter that made him laugh out loud as he read it - Tom said, "Do you think Marge would like to go up to Paris with us when we go?"

    Is had really needed? I'd prefer to leave it as just finished. Would it work? On the other hand, I guess the structure had done functions as the past form of have done. You agree with that interpretation of mine?
    Given that the chronology of events is clear enough, and that both the simple past and the past perfect show perfective aspect/completed action, you don't really need "had." However, "completed action" comes across more explicitly with the past perfect, and it has the pragmatic effect of introducing a sort of little pause between what happened ("finished reading the letter") and what followed ("what Tom said"). Again, in this context, it doesn't matter which one is used, but notice the difference by putting "when" before "Tom:"
    Dickie had finished reading the letter when Tom said ... (the completed action of the past perfect shows anteriority, and thus a sort of little pause)
    Dickie finished reading the letter when Tom said ... (the simple past suggests that the actions of "reading the letter" and "Tom said" happen simultaneously)
     
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