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I want to say "His life has been set on a different course since then." but push it into the past.

I can come up with two options:

  • His life had been set on a different course since then.
  • His life was set on a different course since then[ever since].

Between the two, I am thinking the simple past form is the (more) right one, but do you see any issues with this (also, is this a common form of expression)? Normally, 'since' is used when there are two temporal points that mark a certain interval... but the latter temporal point is unknown, or it is more implicit than normal (also in relation, 'since' is normally used with the past/present perfect forms, so this is an aspect that causes me some confusion). The default assumption would be that he followed this different life course until his death, especially when 'ever since' is used. I would appreciate your input/thoughts on this.

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"His life has been set on a different course since then" is your correct example. It refers to an event that occurred in the past. The other grammatically correct example, "His life had been set on a different course since then," has a different meaning. For example, if someone whose life was negatively impacted by alcohol decides to quit drinking, the example I first quoted means that he continues to live a sober life in the present time. The second example I quoted implies that he has "fallen off the wagon" (a colloquial phrase for "relapsing") and resumed drinking. Your third example, "His life was set on a different course since then," would not make much sense to a native English speaker. If you remove the qualifying prepositional phrase, "on a different course," from the three examples and retain just the verb phrase, this will be more obvious:

"His life has been set since then" (correct).

"His life had been set since then" (correct, but with a different meaning).

"His life was set since then" (not necessarily incorrect, but confusing to a native English speaker).

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