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Which variation of this sentence is correct?

  1. The meeting had gone on for hours and finished ten minutes ago when the partners left.
  2. The meeting had gone on for hours and had finished ten minutes ago when the partners left.
  3. The meeting had gone on for hours and had finished ten minutes ago when the partners had left.

Thank you for your help!

  • None of those is correct, but to suggest a better answer, we need to know exactly what you're trying to say. Could you spell out the situation a bit? Without knowing the context, I'd suggest this: "The meeting went on for hours, and finished ten minutes ago when the partners left." – ralph.m Dec 11 '15 at 7:26
  • Sure! The manuscript is written in past tense, so the above sentence is happening in the story's past. The story's narrator is now at her desk, reflecting back. There's been a bit of a time jump from when the meeting began, so the narrator is simply saying that the meeting went on for hours and only finished ten minutes ago. Here's a bit more of the paragraph: She went over her notes outlining the partners' concerns. The meeting had gone on for hours and finished ten minutes ago when the partners left. The general consensus was that the company was in trouble. – user137928 Dec 11 '15 at 8:09
  • Isn't first one correct? Using past perfect for an action that happened before another action in the past? The meeting had gone on for hours; This part is clearly before the other action which is 'leave'. 2nd and 3rd sentences are logically wrong if you consider the order of the actions. – Grizzly Dec 11 '15 at 8:11
  • Hi Grizzly. You're correct. But the part where they leave is also happening in the "past perfect," which is what is tripping me up. Here's the before and after sentence to paint a more complete picture: "She went over her notes outlining the partners' concerns. The meeting had gone on for hours and finished ten minutes ago when the partners left. The general consensus was that the company was in trouble." – user137928 Dec 11 '15 at 8:14
  • In that case, your Sentence 1 is grammatically okay and also makes sense. But it needs to be in a context where he narrator of the story is careful to make sure that tenses and their position in time is consistent throughout the story. The extra "had"s in 2 and 3 are not adding quality to your writing. – Cargill Dec 11 '15 at 8:15
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We use past perfect for an action that happened before another action in the past. The meeting had gone on for hours; This part is clearly before the other action which is 'leave'. 2nd and 3rd sentences are logically wrong if you consider the order of the actions.

Past<---------X---------------------------XX-------------Now----->Future

       had gone on               left / finished 

'...finished ten minutes ago when the partners left'. Think these two actions happening simultaneously or like 1 second after the other. Don't always think simple past + simple past combination as an 'action + (long) time + another action'.

P.S: Just posted as an answer as I couldn't make the time line on comment section.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to repost with a timeline! – user137928 Dec 11 '15 at 8:30
  • You are welcome. Timelines are always great to explain and understand the flow of actions. – Grizzly Dec 11 '15 at 8:33

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