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Is it correct to say: He knew the answer to the question because he studied really hard or should it be: He knew the answer to the question because he had studied really hard? Or maybe both are correct? Thank you in advance!

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  • Neither is grammatically incorrect, but the second is more natural. The studying must have taken place before the question was asked. Nov 13, 2018 at 11:21

3 Answers 3

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I have a very similar take on this to others but I think my answer comes from a slightly different angle.

As a native speaker I understand the meanings instinctively without analysing the grammar. My automatic understanding was as follows:

He knew the answer to the question because he had studied really hard.

Technically this could be interpreted in different ways but my immediate thought was,

"He knew the answer to the question because he had studied really hard for this test."

He knew the answer to the question because he studied really hard.

The most obvious meaning for me is:

"He knew the answer to the question because he customarily studied really hard."

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  • Thank you for pointing out this subtle difference! This is very useful.
    – David
    Nov 13, 2018 at 12:05
  • And can I ask you an other question, please. Would you use the sentence 'He knew the anwer to the question because he had studied really hard for this test' to explain the time frame and usage of Past Perfect and Past Simple in one sentence?
    – David
    Nov 13, 2018 at 12:10
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"... had studied really hard" implies that the studying was done in the past and is complete.

"... studied really hard" implies studying was done in the past, but may also be read to indicate that he may continue to do so.

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The past perfect sentence which is "He knew the answer to the question because he had studied very hard" is correct because you use the past perfect when you have 2 actions one of them happened before the other, so in the past perfect sentence the action of studying occurred before knowing the answer of the question.
Note: The action that occur first takes the past perfect form and the second one takes the past simple form.
Note: You use the past simple when you have a time indication.

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  • You should indicate the time when you use the past simple; for example: I went to the cinema last week. / I came to England in 1995. / I went to bed late yesterday. / I passed my driving test on Monday. Unlike the present perfect you don’t have to indicate the time ; for example, I have bought a car. / He has broken his leg. To sum up, you should indicate the time in the past simple, but don’t indicate it in the present perfect.
    – Mariam
    Nov 13, 2018 at 12:34

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