Past perfect redundant or not???

lenkangl

Senior Member
Czech Republic, Czech
Hi,
could you please help me with this:
I know that I need to use past perfect to describe a past event that took place before another past event, e.g.: "By the time the train arrived, she had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."
BUT
When I use "before", it is not necessary to use past perfect, right? ("Before the train arrived, she managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."

My question is: Is is possible to use past perfect even in sentences with "before"? OR is it incorrect OR simply redundant??? ("Before the train arrived, she had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd.")


Thanks a lot for your answer(s):)
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    (a) "Before the train arrived, she managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."
    (b) "Before the train arrived, she had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."

    Both sentences are correct, but in each sentence a different time aspect is in view. That aspect will be reflected in the context in each case.

    The use of the past perfect (also called 'pluperfect'), just like the use of the present perfect (also called 'perfect'), depends on two elements, not just one.
    These are (1) the objective time sequence of the events described and (2) the significance which the speaker or writer attaches to the events in relation to the time.

    In (a), 'she managed to push' is seen as a self-contained event, and the tense of the verb is not linking it to something else.
    In (b), 'she had managed to push' leaves us with a sense of expectation: what then?
    She had managed to do it, but...what?

    For example,
    'Before the train arrived, she had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd, but when the door opened a sudden surge of people thrust her to one side.'
     

    Rosi I. S. Parker

    Member
    Spanish-Nicaragua, English USA
    (a) "Before the train arrived, she managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."
    (b) "Before the train arrived, she had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."

    Both sentences are correct, but ...
    It's very interesting to see that it depends on how the writer (or narrator) wants the reader (or listener) to view the scene:
    (a) makes me see the situation happening as it's being narrated: I see her (in the past) pushing her way ... the train is heard in the distance
    (b) makes me see the situation differently: she's already pushed her way ... she's free from the crowds looking toward the train that's heard in the distance

    Could this be the reason as to why we would use one instead of the other form, though both are correct? It's all about the intention, right?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    In fact lots of things are possible with before and past perfect:

    A. She had managed to push her way to the front of the crowd before the train arrived.

    Sentence A suggests there was a time when the following were both true:

    "The train is arriving."
    "She has managed to push her way to the front of the crowd."

    B. She managed to push her way to the front of the crowd before the train had arrived.

    Sentence B says there was a time when the following were both true—

    "She is managing to push her way to the front of the crowd."
    "The train has not arrived."

    The difference is that sentence B refers to an earlier time and does not tell us whether the train ever arrived.

    In general we can choose a viewpoint in time, which may be fixed or may be slipping toward the future, and choose our tenses/aspects based on the viewpoint we choose.

    C. She managed to push her way to the front of the crowd before the train arrived.

    Sentence C uses a moving viewpoint. It says that there was a time when the following was true:

    "She is managing to push her way to the front of the crowd."

    It also says that that time was before the time when the following was true:

    "The train is arriving."

    I hope this helps.
     
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