What is the difference between :had eaten and ate?
:had been checking and
was checking?
  • emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi Sageo. They are using different verb tenses.

    Had eaten is in the pluperfect tense
    Ate is in the simple past tense
    Had been checking is either in the pluperfect continuous or the imperfect tense, not sure at this late hour.
    Was checking is in the continuous past/imperfect tense.


    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    One action takes place before the other action.

    had eaten - past perfect

    ate - past simple

    I had eaten my soup when my mother rang the bell.

    Yesterday I ate an apple.

    had been checking past perfect continuous

    was checking - past continuous

    so the case is the same , past perfect is "more " in the past than past simple

    I had been checking my essay when the the door was opened.

    I was checking my essay when somebody came in


    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    heidita said:
    I had been checking my essay when the the door was opened.
    I don't think I'd use the past perfect in this sentence. I would say "I was checking my essay when the door was opened."

    I'd use the past perfect in a sentence like this: "I had been checking my essay for five hours when I realized that it was getting dark."

    Don't ask me why! :eek:

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    The point about these verb structures is that they allow you to show a sequence of events.
    When you are telling a story "in the past" the pluperfect allows you to go a bit further back and therefore show the sequence.

    "I had eaten my meal and was getting ready for bed when the bomb fell"

    You could express this sequence using "ate", it wouldn't be "wrong" since the syntax shows the sequence anyway:
    "I ate my meal and was getting ready for bed when the bomb fell"

    If you never use the pluperfect (had eaten) you may need to use "and" or "then" more often to show the sequence. Heavy use of these generally creates a rather conversational / immature writing style. (Toddlers can talk for every using short phrases linked by "and then")

    Labelling the tenses is not so interesting to me as looking at some real examples and noticing why writers use the construction.

    Why not do a few google searches and read some examples in context?

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Incidentally if you want more grammar terms:

    ate is the perfect tense of to eat,
    it is an irregular verb in the sense that it doesnt use the ---ed morpheme that most verbs do, walked, smiled, etc.

    eaten is know as the past participle, and again it is irregular, although that ---en morpheme is more common in participles.

    I had walked,
    in this case you can see that the perfect tense form and the past participle form of to walk are the same.

    If you look at many verbs you will find no difference between the perfect tense and the participle form, smiled, had smiled; danced; had danced; killed; had killed

    to eat has difference
    I ate and
    I had eaten

    If you are a native English speaker you will know the rest,
    try with :
    "to choose"
    I chose
    I had ........?

    to drive
    I drove
    I had ....?

    to hit
    I hit
    I had ...? (hahah a trick one)

    to fly
    I .... ?
    I had .....?

    hope this helps, there are lots of websites which explain this sort of stuff - if you look around