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I know that gerunds can be used with before or after in the present tense when talking about facts:

I always turn off the lights before going to bed.

But can I use a gerund with "after" or "before" to explain specific events that occurred in the past, or the past perfect tense is always required?

After getting up yesterday, I brushed my teeth.

After I had gotten up yesterday, I brushed my teeth.

If both sentences are grammatically correct, when should I use one over the other?

  • In your first sentence, "getting" is a gerund, which doesn't convey tense. In your second sentence "gotten" is part of the main verb, which does. To make the cases parallel consider "After I am getting up yesterday, I brushed my teeth." After doesn't work well with the progressive, and the present tense in the subordinate clause doesn't work well with the past tense of the main clause. – deadrat Dec 9 '15 at 10:38
  • The correct consideration is "After [I was] getting up yesterday,..." The gerund is often equivalent to the infinitive - the implied tense comes from the main verb 'brushed'. – AmI Dec 9 '15 at 20:09
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"After getting up yesterday, I brushed my teeth" is fine and perfectly natural. "Yesterday" in the adjunct clause sets the time of my getting up as being in the past, as does the past tense "brushed" in the main clause.

You don't need the 'double' past sense of the past perfect; the preterite (simple) past is quite adequate:

"After I got up yesterday, I brushed my teeth".

Essentially, those are just two slightly different ways of saying the same thing.

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