I'm writing in the past tense, but this sentence needs to be in past perfect. Is this correct?

"When they had the chance, they had fought their way out."

Or should it be: "When they'd had the chance, they had fought their way out."

Thank you for you time

  • Why does the second half have had?
    – tchrist
    Sep 9, 2015 at 1:48
  • Because it's past perfect. The story is written is the past tense (which is the story's present), but these events being described happened in the story's past (which means it has to be written in past perfect with "had" before a verb).
    – G.S.
    Sep 9, 2015 at 2:07
  • That doesn't make as much sense as you might think it does. Such rules aren’t all they’re made out to be. No reason to be slave to mindless directions more honored in a reduced worldview than in practice. In other words, you don't really have to do that.
    – tchrist
    Sep 9, 2015 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


You should say:

When they'd had the chance, they fought their way out.

I say this because it is irregular to use pluperfect twice in the same sentence (depending on how it's done). Also, the beginning of the sentence established that the action took place in the past perfect tense by saying 'had had / 'd had', so you don't need to make 'fought' pluperfect.

'Past perfect' means by definition, "relating to a point in the past". So if the point is already known, then you do not need to use pluperfect twice.

  • The past perfect denotes past time before a particular point in the past. In your example, the particular point is when a chance became available, but the rest of the sentence is about fighting that took place after that. An example of proper use of the past perfect: "Before they saw [past] their chance, they almost had given [past perfect] up hope."
    – deadrat
    Sep 9, 2015 at 2:32

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