I'm trying to understand the concept behind the correct usage of tenses. Should I choose the correct tense based on the context or is it strictly constrained to the text within the sentence?

For example I have a phrase like this:

Within a year before the renovation, a total of 10,000 people had visited the museum, and the majority had voiced dissatisfaction with their experience.

So basically I'm describing an action 10,000 people had visited the museum which is taking place before the certain event renovation.

Now. I want to add a bit more clarification to this idea and write something like this:

During this time, 40% of the museum guests voiced their dissatisfaction with the experience.

Now this sentence is in Simple Paste tense, but is it correct? I mean, the overall context is in Past Perfect Simple, as stated by the previous sentence. So should the second be in Past Perfect Simple as well, if it's following the first one as part of the same paragraph?

  • 1
    "In the year...", not "Within a year..." Otherwise, it looks perfect.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 20:14
  • 1
    Simple Paste tense Obviously, a sticky issue of syntax.
    – deadrat
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 1:56
  • Didn't the visitors complain after they visited? They had visited, and then some complained (not had complained). Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


Your use of simple past to refer to a prior time introduced by a perfect is quite acceptable, as long as you make it clear to your reader that you are in fact shifting—as you do with the phrase during this time. (However, you might consider using during that time, instead, to provide a more distinct contrast with your original Reference Time, the renovation.)

In fact, shifting from one Reference Time to an earlier one is a very common function for perfects. In effect, the perfect provides a sort of "anchor" by which you may gracefully return to your original Reference Time after you have finished discussing the earlier events. See this for some examples.

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.