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In my point of view these two are the same and both talk about two actions that respectively was done in the past.

But which one is correct and what is the difference between them if there is any?

  1. When we had finished dinner, we went out.
  2. When we finished dinner, we went out.

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  • 2
    This is a basic question that can be answered by Googling "past perfect language:English". Both are correct, the first one hints that finishing dinner is a process as opposed to an instantaneous activity. – Pablo Straub Apr 21 '17 at 16:29
2
  • When we talk about past actions in the order in which they happened, we use the simple past tenses.

    First we had our dinner, then we went out.

  • If we talk about actions happened simultaneously, we can use the simple past tense.

    When he saw elephants, he was amazed.

  • However, if we talk about two actions happened in the past one after the other, we use the past perfect tense for the first action.

    Before she went to the zoo to see elephants, she had read a lot about them.

    When we had finished dinner, we went out.

(More explanations and examples are here.)

  • This answer is contradictory. By your point 1, it should be "When we finished dinner, we went out." – Peter Shor Apr 21 '17 at 20:44
  • As we know finishing dinner and going out are not a simultaneous action. The speaker/writer can decide the order of the actions and in that sense to say When we finished dinner, we went out is acceptable. If we say when we went out, we finished dinner, isn't it grammatically correct? But, isn't there an ambiguity regarding the order of actions? So, It's better to use the Past Perfect for the first action and the Simple Past for the following action, in order to avoid such possible ambiguities. – mahmud koya Apr 22 '17 at 1:12
  • There's no ambiguity in When we finished dinner, we went out. You can use the past perfect in that sentence, but there's no real need to. – Peter Shor Apr 22 '17 at 1:18
  • I haven't said there is an ambiguity in When we finished dinner, we went out and moreover I have said it is an acceptable sentence. If we reverse the sentence, it may create the ambiguity. – mahmud koya Apr 22 '17 at 1:21

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