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I was standing on the spot where the murderer had been, thinking, "Did he hesitate? Once the trigger was pulled for the first time, there would've been no turning back."

Can the following sentences replace the original one?

  1. Once the trigger had been pulled for the first time, there would've been no turning back.
  2. Once the trigger was pulled for the first time, there would be no turning back.

Which one would be more natural? Could you tell me the differences among them?

  • Once it were done, there’d be no turning back. – tchrist Dec 20 '13 at 15:00
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Your first example could be substituted and would arguably be more appropriate. Your second example would not be appropriate to convey the intended meaning.

In the original, the trigger pulling action precedes the state of no turning back. But the original example uses the past tense for pulled and present perfect conditional for turning. No clear order is indicated.

Your first example conforms to the logic. Past perfect pulled is completed before present perfect conditional turning. And both are in the past, as is dictated by the logic of the entire paragraph.

Your second example uses simple past for pulled and conditional present turning. But the entire series of actions and states have already occurred (the murderer had been thinking). The use of the present is not in keeping with the meaning of the original, even though the time relationship between pulled and turning is logical.

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