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I am learning about the past perfect tense and I'm beginning to think that the tense is never really required for the sentence to be grammatical. It is mainly a tense to help clarify the order of the verbs. So, if the order of verbs follows the usual chronological order, do I ever need to use the past perfect for the sentence to be grammatical?

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  • There is a very detailed answer to your question here.
    – CDM
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:53
  • Your question is a bit unclear to me. For example if I changed the tense of the following sentence from past perfect to present: "I had gone the night before." to "I go the night before." It's still grammatical but means something entirely different. But, "I had finished eating when the package arrived." changing to present tense: "I finish eating when the package arrived." is not grammatical. Is this what you're asking?
    – Jim
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:53
  • @Jim I was asking about when I needed to use the past perfect over the past tense for it to be grammatical and keep its meaning.
    – stegaman
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:56
  • Ok, then yes, sometimes past perfect is necessary: "I had finished eating when the package arrived." becomes "I finished eating when the package arrived." is still grammatical but has a different meaning.
    – Jim
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:58
  • @Jim what about "I already finished eating, when the package arrived"? thanks
    – stegaman
    Jan 6, 2016 at 4:00

1 Answer 1

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Sometimes you do; sometimes you don't.

Sometimes, you want to clearly portray something as preexisting, so you do use pluperfect:

I had met her dozens of times, but this time was the first time I really saw her.

Other times, you are simply relaying a series of events, so you don't use pluperfect:

My grandma didn't give me a cookie, so I punched her in the nose.

You are looking for a hard-and-fast rule, but as is true of every rule of grammar, there are exceptions, and even exceptions often have exceptions.

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