Home TEFL forum Grammar & Vocabulary Past Tense vs. Past Perfect Tense

Past Tense vs. Past Perfect Tense

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
Reply to this topic
  • brain train
    Participant
    21 August, 2009 at 8:56
    • Total posts: 3

    I used to think that I have already mastered the difference between the two, but upon reading the explanations given by http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfect.html (which I deem very credible), I am more confused than ever.

    You see, whenever I teach the tenses, I make sure to compare and contrast the commonly confused tenses. When I explain the difference between the Simple Past and the Past Perfect Tense, I say that:

    Both deal with actions that happened in the past BUT,
    Past Tense: deals with actions that happened in a definite time in the past (eg. I went to the USA last year.)
    Past Perfect (Progressive/Continuous) Tense: deals with actions that started/happened in the past and continued up until another past action terminated it (eg. We had shopped in that store for the past ten years until it closed down.) or until a certain time in the past (eg. We had shopped in that store for the past ten years until yesterday.)

    Ergo, shortcut is that we usually use the past perfect (progressive/continuous) when there are two past actions, and we put "HAD" on whichever action first took place UNLESS the two past actions have a cause & effect relationship. To illustrate:

    – I wounded myself because/when I tripped. (Past Simple)vs
    – I wounded myself because/when I had tripped. (Past Perfect)

    I say that the 1st sentence is better, because:
    1. The time is specific…When did I wound myself? When I tripped. And this is a specific time in the past (I believe that actual dates & times are not necessary, for we still use the past tense for specific time expressions like "When I was a kid…")
    2. I’ve read that the reason why we use the past perfect tense (the use of "had") is to easily show which action happened first. Now for cause-effect, the cause is OBVIOUSLY the first action to have happened.

    Your ideas please. Thank you!

    e2e4
    Participant
    9 January, 2010 at 0:24
    • Total posts: 20

    Reply To: Past Tense vs. Past Perfect Tense

    Long time’s passed but let me try to type down a few examples?

    I turned the light on after which I took a book to read.
    I’d left the party before she came in.
    I patted my little dog which I’d been carrying to a veterinary surgeon. As I did it he licked my fingers.
    I am sorry that I stopped before I’d finished the explanation.

    dltc
    Participant
    9 February, 2010 at 19:15
    • Total posts: 7

    Reply To: Past Tense vs. Past Perfect Tense

    Just my two cents:
    when I was teaching used to refer to the past perfect as being the ‘past before the past’ and explain it by saying that it refers to an action or event that happened before a point/action/event that also took place in the past .. i.e. a past event that took place before a past event.

    I think you’re second sentence seems odd, as if there is something missing from it. If you agree with me that the past perfect requires two past events and one that comes before the other, then I would say that the more recent past event (the marker event) is missing from sentence two:
    – I wounded myself because/when I tripped. (Past Simple)vs
    – I wounded myself because/when I had tripped. (Past Perfect)

    e.g. the full sentence with the marker event: "I wounded myself when I had tripped the year before my wedding"

    Maybe I’m missing your point, but hope this helps.

    Bob


    Bob Golden Director of Studies DLTC Language School Dublin Ireland http://www.dltc.ie

    syndony
    Participant
    27 February, 2010 at 7:51
    • Total posts: 1

    Reply To: Past Tense vs. Past Perfect Tense

    Hi,
    I would say that "had reached" is ok if it is clear form the context that there is a fixed point in the past and that you are referring to something that happened before that point. So, people had reached a high level of civilization… before what, before what point in the past? If it is clear, you can use the past perfect if you want. If there’s no context that tells you about that point in time, then you can only use the simple past, I think. The simple past would be ok in any case, as you see.

    Pruthiraj
    Participant
    28 July, 2010 at 8:01
    • Total posts: 9

    Reply To: Past Tense vs. Past Perfect Tense

    Use the past tense for a series of events. The speaker reports the events that happened in sequence with no particular importance placed on timing.

    I stopped at an ATM, then I took my friends out to lunch.

    Use the past perfect tense to contrast the timing of two events: earlier and later past. The speaker places emphasis on the timing of the first event because of the effect it has on the second event.

    I had stopped at an ATM before I took my friends out to lunch. (I was able to pay for lunch.).

    I had taken my friends out to lunch before I stopped at an ATM. (I borrowed some money.).

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)

Please log in to reply to this topic.