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How do the tenses in English correspond temporally to one another?

What's the difference between the following two sentences?

I had finished reading the book yesterday.
I finished reading the book yesterday.

I also want to know that in general, when do we use simple past over past perfect?

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marked as duplicate by J.R., RegDwigнt May 30 '12 at 22:07

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

1 Answer

The difference in meaning is negligible, but your first example sounds "incomplete." Use the past tense, unless you want to compare that event to something else. So:

I finished reading the book yesterday.
I had finished reading the book, then the telephone rang.

I ran three miles yesterday.
I had run three miles when I started to feel a cramp.

I washed my car yesterday.
I had just finished washing my car when the first raindrops started to fall.

You can read more about this at this website.

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Why was this downvoted? –  user164321 May 30 '12 at 21:55
    
Maybe because it's not entirely as simple as I've made it out to be, or because there is more variation allowed than I've indicated in my rather brief answer. Your question is very basic yet complex at the same time. In the absence of more explicit information, I'd interpret the downvotes to mean, "Don't take everything this guy said in this answer to be set in stone." –  J.R. May 31 '12 at 1:35
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