I'm currently reading 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini, and notice that in some place in the book, i can't really comprehend the use of past perfect tense instead of simple past tense. Consider this paragraph:

"Yes." It was the shortcut to school. I remembered the day Hassan and I crossed it and the soldiers had teased Hassan about his mother. Hassan had cried in the cinema later, and I had put an arm around him.

I don't really understand why past perfect tense is used (had teased, had cried, had put) instead of past simple. Does the paragraph means anything else if I put it like this:

"Yes." It was the shortcut to school. I remembered the day Hassan and I crossed it and the soldiers teased Hassan about his mother. Hassan cried in the cinema later, and I put an arm around him.

Please, enlighten me.

Thank you.

  • Well, reading the use of past perfect suggests that it is often used to focus on the consequences of the past actions or actions that will follow, rather than in the action itself. Even though in that passage there are still no consequences mentioned, one expects them. Maybe that is the intention.
    – mama
    Feb 1, 2019 at 1:49
  • I think it is better to quote a much larger portion, several paragraphs, maybe up to where it says “So when the Taliban came...” “They were heroes,” Rahim Khan said. “Peace at last.”. All that passage can be summarized as 'All these things had happened, when the Taliban came'. The focus is on the arrival of the Taliban. The narration of 'these things (that) had happened' is done in the 5 paragraphs that are in between.
    – mama
    Feb 1, 2019 at 3:05
  • Note how there are in between sentences telling things that happened at the arrival: 'When the Taliban rolled in and kicked the Alliance out of Kabul, I actually danced on that street'. Those are in past tense.
    – mama
    Feb 1, 2019 at 3:07
  • But if it's used to be then summarised as 'all these things', why wouldn't the 'crossed' is considered to be one of those things? I'm sorry but i think the story about Hassan being teased, cried, and had an arm put around him is too trivial to be included as a larger part of the Taliban's coming Feb 1, 2019 at 3:15
  • I think it is because of what I said in the first comment, the crossing is only important as an action in itself, those in perfect past are important for their consequences, or what follows. That sentence about the teasing is not trivial at all in the story. I am not sure how much I should comment. Not sure if I will spoil some events in the book, which I don't know if you have read already. Did you finish the book?
    – mama
    Feb 1, 2019 at 3:19

1 Answer 1


The past perfect there suggests that the ‘teased’ occured first prior ‘crossed’.

Simply to tell which happen first.

  • but what about the 'cried' and 'put', those clearly happened after the 'teased' and 'crossed' Feb 1, 2019 at 3:12
  • @YohanesTheda Those are in a new sentence. Has nothing to do with the other. Feb 1, 2019 at 4:41
  • @Lawrence I have no idea what you edited it? I am talkimg about the ‘teased’ and the ‘crossed’ in the paragraph, Why did you add ‘ing’? Feb 4, 2019 at 9:58
  • 1
    I edited it for grammar. Feel free to revert it if you prefer your version, in which case, please also accept my apology for editing your post in a manner contrary to your intent. You can revert your post by clicking the “edited xx days ago” link towards the bottom of your post, then click the “rollback” link next to the desired revision.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 4, 2019 at 10:16
  • I’ve rolled it back for you.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 4, 2019 at 10:20

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