I have one statement in my book:

A BBC special news team (leave) for Cairo immediately after we (receive) news of the earthquake.

I chose:

A BBC special news team left for Cairo immediately after we had received news of the earthquake (past time clause, moreover one action was performed before another past).

But the key answer says:

A BBC special news team left for Cairo immediately after we received news of the earthquake.

What is correct? P.S.: I am not a native speaker.

  • 2
    You might say that the perfect is redundant, since the anterior/past meaning is expressed by "after". So the key answer is to be preferred. – BillJ Jan 30 '17 at 16:01
  • Keep it simple. If you can say it clearly without 'had,' leave it out. – Yosef Baskin Jan 30 '17 at 16:49
  • 1
    I disagree with both BillJ and Yosef. The two have subtly different meanings. If you don't need the extra meaning of the pluperfect, then don't use it, by all means; but if you do, use it. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '17 at 23:25
  • 1
    I can't see any impact on the meaning arising as a result of using the past tense. The past perfect is only needed to make clear the temporal relationship between two events. – BillJ Jan 31 '17 at 8:29

Both are completely correct and natural. The difference is in where (or, rather, when) the writer is focussing attention. Your version, with 'had', puts the temporal focus at the time the team left. The other version, without 'had', does not set a specific temporal focus - it ranges over all the events.

  • could I ask to clarify it. There are some doubths as to exactly what do you mean by emphasize temporal focus: "had" puts temporal focus at the time the team left? And once I heard that using Past Simple instead of Past Perfect like in this case we make the following phrase "longer". What does it mean? – Anthony Voronkov Jan 31 '17 at 12:37
  • It's hard to clarify, @AnthonyVoronkov. It might also be called "story time". I think it tells you where to locate following sentences in time. Suppose the following sentence was "I said to John, ....". With "had", it would be clear that this followed on from the team leaving. Without it, it would not be clear whether it followed on from the team leaving or from receiving news of the earthquake. (Of course, in this case, the "immediately" means there's essentially no difference between these). I don't know what your "longer" means, but it may be the same thing. – Colin Fine Jan 31 '17 at 18:22

What is correct? It depends on the context of time (past, present, future) based on what you have said/written before this sentence. What is correct is what temporal perspective you want to place your narrating relative to these chain of events.
What you chose: To place you after everything happened with both verbs in the past tense.

Long explanation:
You are talking about a chain (order matters) of events (time related) within the same sentence. So playing with the tense of your chosen verbs "leave" and "receive" changes the meaning of when (time) you are talking/writing this relative to these two events within the chain (past, present or future). The listener/reader knows there is a logical order to the events such that you couldn't use the combination of past tense for "leave" and future tense for "receive". For example, if you use the past tense of "receive" relative to using the future tense of "leave", you have placed the time that you are talking/writing as coming between the two chained events and not after the entire chain of events like you chose.
Example of you the writer placing the reader in time between the two events by using the future tense of leave and the past tense of receive:
A BBC special news team will leave (future tense: this event hasn't happened yet) for Cairo immediately now that we have received news of the earthquake.

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