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Is the second sentence correct?

Are we going ahead with this now? Earlier, you had told me that they had quoted a huge fee the last time we asked.

Or should it rather just be "You told me that they had quoted a huge fee..."?

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  • Both seem fine ... why do you think it should be different?
    – virmaior
    Feb 12, 2014 at 8:32

2 Answers 2

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Yes, I think the first one is incorrect. 'You had told me' is the pluperfect (past perfect), and I suspect (though cannot be sure) that you do not need the pluperfect at this stage.

There are, however, circumstances in which the pluperfect could be used twice, such as if I say:

'Last Thursday, you told me John was going to Birmingham. However, he had earlier told me that he had done all the travelling he intended this month.'

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  • The first sentence, as intended by the OP, is: "Are we going ahead with this now?". The second is:"Earlier, you had told me that they had quoted a huge fee the last time we asked." So are you saying the second is incorrect?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 12, 2014 at 8:59
  • @Mari-LouA Yes. In the first example the second sentence has two 'hads'. The first 'had', in my view, should not be there. The simple past is all that is required, not the pluperfect.
    – WS2
    Feb 12, 2014 at 9:44
  • The OP asks about the "second sentence" and you mention the first one as being probably incorrect. I think your answer needs rewording as it forces the reader to double-check (well, I had to).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 12, 2014 at 9:49
  • @Mari-LouA The matter is confusing because by 'second sentence' the OP means the 'second sentence of the first example', not the second example. I have simply adopted his designations.
    – WS2
    Feb 12, 2014 at 10:02
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There is no grammatical reason why had, or any other word, cannot occur twice in the same sentence. The past perfect construction is typically used to describe a past event that occurred before another. We might say ‘I had just arrived when it started to rain’. In that situation, my arrival precedes the rain, if only by a short time. For the two past perfect constructions to occur in your sentence, both the telling and the quoting would have to have occurred before some third event in the past. That is certainly possible, but you have to be sure that that was actually the case. If that was not in fact the sequence of events, then only one past perfect construction is necessary.

In brief, both the sentences you give are grammatical, but they refer to different timeframes.

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