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When using the past perfect tense to say something happened before something else, is it correct to use the gerund form (as opposed to the past tense) to express the latter event? For example, is it correct to say:

I had given him the book before leaving for Canada.

Or is it only correct to say:

I had given him the book before I left for Canada.

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closed as general reference by MετάEd, kiamlaluno, StoneyB, tchrist, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Oct 4 '12 at 1:51

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Both are grammatical (after my edits), but to answer this satisfactorily, it would be necessary to know when the statement was made, when the speaker left for Canada and when the book was given. –  Barrie England Aug 26 '12 at 18:57

1 Answer 1

Both are fine.

The fact that the gerund is tenseless does not mean that the event it describes didn't happen at some time -- just that that time isn't explicitly marked in the clause.

Since the past perfect in the first clause sets up an expectation that a reference past time will be supplied in the context, the addressee will normally interpret either a tenseless or a tensed clause (or a nominalization, or an adverb or adverb clause, or whatever is available) as setting that reference time.

  • I had given him the book before leaving for Canada.
  • I had given him the book before going to Canada.
  • I had given him the book before I left for Canada.
  • I had given him the book before I went to Canada.

    (BTW, it's leave for a place, but go to a place)

  • I had given him the book before my departure for Canada.

  • I had given him the book before my train for Canada was due to leave.
  • I had given him the book before we saw him last night.
  • I had given him the book before last night.

etc.

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