Context:

  1. Yesterday, I met my first girl friend.
  2. She was beautiful when I first saw her ten years ago.
  3. Yesterday, I thought she was beautiful as ever.

Questions:

  1. If I try to use only one sentence to express 2 and 3, do you think past perfect tense need to be used? Or do you think I can make it clear just by using simple past tense?

  2. Which sentence is correct and which one is the used more frequently? Yesterday, I met my first girl friend. She was as beautiful as she was ten years ago. Yesterday, I met my first girl friend. She was as beautiful as she had been ten years before.

  • Shouldn't it be girlfriend rather than girl friend? – Damkerng T. Nov 21 '13 at 16:57
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The past perfect is necessary when the sequence of past events may otherwise be unclear. Compare:

She cooked dinner when I arrived.

She had cooked dinner when I arrived.

However, it is certainly not 'very necessary' to use the past perfect in OP's context. Ten years ago is ten years ago whether from the perspective of today or yesterday. There is no ambiguity of sequence.

It is somewhat different if the speaker is reporting a meeting with his girlfriend at a more remote point in time:

In 2009 I met my first girlfriend in Paris. She was as beautiful then as she had been ten years before.

Here we do have a clear 'past in the past' so the past perfect is unproblematic. As to whether it is necessary, I see no significant objection to the past simple here too:

In 2009 I met my first girlfriend in Paris. She was as beautiful then as she was ten years before.

[Note that replacing before with ago in the above sentence changes the meaning.]

  • Thank you for your answer, Shoe. I have got what you taught me. It is inspiring. – user57916 Nov 25 '13 at 7:46

I would say the use of past perfect is clearer, but depending on your intention the use of the simple past might be clear enough.

That being said, I would certainly suggest the past perfect here myself.

Which is used more frequently is harder to say. Among other things, I would imagine it varies according to dialect and register.

The use of the simple is not so rare as to be incomprehensible, though some may consider it incorrect.

The use of the past perfect is not so rare as to sound overly formal or stuffy.

Again, I'd recommend the past-perfect even if avoiding the correct but unusually formal is something you care about.

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.