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A common definition that I get is: " past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past."

However, wouldn't that imply that this sentence is right?

I had gone to the coffee shop and drank a coffee.

instead of the

I went to the coffee shop and drank a coffee.

So, does the past perfect have further limitations/exclusions?

  • No, the time of your going to the coffee shop is not considered as being anterior to the time of your drinking coffee. The two actions are seen as having the same (or similar) temporal location, so the simple past tense is appropriate to both events, cf. I had been in the coffee shop for over an hour when I suddenly spotted Ed sitting in the corner. – BillJ Apr 17 '16 at 19:40
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    A lot can depend on what conjunctive text you place between the two past events. If you say simply and, almost certainly you do not need the past perfect. But if you say, or imply something like by the time that you almost certainly do. I had discovered the thief's identity by the time I reported it to the police – WS2 Apr 17 '16 at 19:58
  • Your definition says: It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past. You don't need to use it in your example sentence, because the order is already completely clear. You could say I had gone to the coffee shop when the airplane hit my house, so I wan't injured. But people wouldn't say I had gone to the coffee shop when I drank my coffee, even though the timing of the events is exactly the same. – Peter Shor Apr 18 '16 at 12:15
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Past Perfect is an action that happened before something else in Simple Past, either implied or stated, to emphasize that the first action had been completed before the second one, or to refer to a time period before the action in Simple Past. In a normal sequence of events, there is no need for Past Perfect. You would normally go to the coffee shop first and then drink a coffee, so : I went to the coffee shop and drank a coffee. It wouldn't make sense to say: I had gone to the coffee shop before I drank a coffee, because that would be the normal order of events. But consider these examples: I had gone to the coffee shop before and drunk a latte, so I was surprised it wasn't on the menu any more. I had locked the door before I left, and was surprised to find it ajar, upon my return. I had researched the company before going to the job interview. (The groundwork had been laid.)

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