I am trying to figure out the correct use of perfect (past perfect) tenses:

  • It took a year until she got over it.
  • It took a year until she had got/gotten over it.

Are both correct?

If so, I think the latter means that it took a year until it was all gone and she was fine again (I mean that event is closed already), while the former is more "immediate"?

  • In both cases, the entire event is in the past. Example 1 is fine, but you may need Example 2 in certain circumstances - and that would depend on the preceding and/or following sentences and what tense they are in. (Incidentally, "gotten" is not used in British English.)
    – TrevorD
    Aug 5, 2013 at 12:15
  • 3
    The use of took makes both sentences incorrect since it implies imperfect past. A better sentence might be >It took a year for her to get over it. This page on past perfect tense should be able to help as well Aug 5, 2013 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


In an isolated sentence, there is no difference between the simple and the perfect tenses. In a sequence of sentences, though, the simple tenses (especially the past) generally create the impression of sequence. "I went down the hall. I found the note. I burst into tears." We assume that those things happened in that order. A perfect tense allows you to make a side statement about a different time. "I went down the hall. I found the note. She had told me she was unhappy, but I hadn't listened. I burst into tears." The past perfect lets me refer to an event in the more remote past without changing the expected time of the next sentence.

In your examples, I agree that better would be "It took a year for her to get over it" and "it had taken a year for her to get over it." In the case of the first one, the reader expects to hear what happened immediately after she got over it. In the case of the second one, the reader expects the narrative to resume from whatever sentence came before that one.

Hope that helps.


"Until" does not sound right in those sentences.

"It was a year before she was/got over it" "It took a year for her to be/get over it"

"It was a year before she had gotten over it" "It had taken her a year to get over it" (better)

In both cases, the event is finished (she is over it). The choice of simple past or past perfect depends on the context - are you talking about a series of events in the past (simple past) or are you talking about past events preceding other past events (past perfect)?

eg, She was attending school, she got ill, it took a year for her to get over it. vs She was attending school and got ill. She finished school, but it had taken her a year to get over the illness.

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