My mother was raised in a family that had placed extreme importance on filial piety.

Is had superfluous, wrong, or correct?

I can see arguments in both directions:

  1. Perfect past (raised) requires pluperfect (had placed).
  2. Reflexive participle makes raised imperfect, even though it's a completed action, therefore placed is sufficient.

marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, tchrist, Robusto, Ellie Kesselman, Mitch Oct 31 '14 at 18:16

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  • 1
    Not much to do with grammar. Both are acceptable. The two versions do not quite mean the same thing, though. – Kris Oct 30 '14 at 14:06
  • The reading with had implies that the placing was a one-time action, distinctly preceding the raising, which seems less plausible than that the placing and the raising were both ongoing processes and simultaneous. – Brian Donovan Oct 30 '14 at 14:48

For action that began in the past and was completed in the past, use the past simple tense.

  • I was raised in a small town where people went to church every Sunday.
  • My mother was raised in a family that placed extreme importance on religion.

Use the past perfect tense to indicate that action was completed in the past, before another action happened.

  • She had already left when we arrived.
  • After I had cleaned the windows I decided to take a shower.

In your sentence, the past simple tense is the correct form: "My mother was raised in a family that placed extreme importance on filial piety." "had" in this case is not superfluous, it's wrong.

  • 1
    "Had" isn't necessarily wrong -- it would be fine if they had ceased to do so at some point. But that's probably not the intended meaning. – digitig Oct 30 '14 at 15:38

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