Is the use of the 2nd option (look below) incorrect because there is no helping verb before "looked", or are both options correct in this situation?


The characters are talking about a house that they visited a while before. They want to describe the smell and the look of the house.


  1. Everything smelled like soap and looked like the inside of a cottage.
  2. Everything had smelled like soap and looked like the inside of a cottage.
  • Since this seems to be a description of a single impression of the place, yes, I think the second had is needed.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 3:37
  • Please first recognise, everything smelled like soap and looked like the inside of a cottage is fine grammatically yet it could never have useful meaning. If you change it to everything smelled like A and looked like B then any relationship - or lack thereof - between A and B should be more obvious. Argue until the cows come home and still, nothing before looked would be either necessary or useful. Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 21:54

2 Answers 2


The first sentence implies that the characters are still experiencing the house, so don't use the first sentence in whatever you're writing. The meaning of the second sentence is clear with or without the second had, so if you're writing prose, feel free to make an artistic choice and leave it out. However, the second "had" is needed to in order to make the sentence correct. this can easily be checked by removing "had smelled like soap and" from the sentence and checking if the meaning has changed, which it has, back to the characters still experiencing the house.


If you want to transport the reader into a bubble where they feel they are with the characters smelling and feeling the cottage, use the first one.

If you want to report on what happened, like a policeman giving a report, use the second one.

  • -1 That wasn't the question.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 23:17

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