Jumping straight into my question, consider these two sentences:

  1. He had finished the recitation and closed the book.
  2. He had finished the recitation and had closed the book.

Which of the above two is correct? To me, the second sentence sounds more correct; I need to confirm.

Also, any tip on handling a sentence with two verbs separated by a conjunction, as in this case itself, would be much appreciated.

  • 1
    As an editor, I would change this to read, "He finished the recitation and closed the book." However, of the two I prefer your first example. Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 15:59
  • Welcome to EL&U. If you use the search like this, you will find a lot of helpful answers.
    – user140086
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 16:15
  • @Anshuman Sinha Your first example is the best. In 2. the second "had" seems redundant since the time of the situation will already have been made clear by the first "had".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 16:31
  • The second sounds borderline wrong. Conjunction reduction is the rule.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 6:14

3 Answers 3


It depends on what facts you wish to emphasize. The first sentence would be suggest that the time he finished the recitation was of importance, and the closure of the book is a secondary issue.

He had finished the recitation and closed the book when the bomb went off.

But if the closing of the book was important, rather than the recitation, one might use the second.

He had finished the recitation and had closed the book when the bomb went off; the closed book absorbed much of the blast.

  • Thanks, Brian! That's actually what I thought would be the case. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 13:47
  • The had should distribute across the conjunction.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 6:16

1st sentence is more correct. 'Had' used with first action, but it is little ambiguous, 'had finished' and 'had closed' as two simultaneous event. More correct form would be

He had finished the recitation and he closed the book.

Generally 'Had' is not used when there is single action/event.

Eg :

I had come to meet Jon.

More correct form will be

I came to meet Jon.


Alex arrived but Jon had left for work (but is conjunction)

Sequence of events - Jon left for work and then Alex arrived.

Between two events in past, the event that has occurred first will be written as 'had' + 'verb'.

If events occurred simultaneously in past use simple past tense.


It would depend on the time frame in which the second action occurs. If you are stating that he finished AND closed at similar times, both long enough ago to use "had" then you would use had before both words. However, if you were to say that he finished the recitation earlier (in a time before the current narration) and are now in a time extremely close to when he closed the book (in the time in which, or slightly before, the current narration) you would go with your first choice.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.