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When a subordinate clause establishes time, do you have the option of using or not using the past perfect in the main clause?

When he called her, he said nothing about quitting his job.

When he called her, he had said nothing about quitting his job.

To address FumbleFingers's comment, here's more context.

He glanced away at the pale blue sky. When he called her, he said nothing about quitting his job. He let her think he was meeting her on his lunch break.

If the narrative were put in the present, only the first sentence would change: He glances away at the pale blue sky. When . . .

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    Whether Past Perfect should be (stylistically) preferred or not is largely down to the surrounding narrative context that you haven't supplied. If the text before and/or after the cited excerpt is primarily set in the past (i.e. - the "narrative reference time" is in the past), this would strongly support using Past Perfect. If it's primarily set in the present, Simple Past would usually be preferred. – FumbleFingers Feb 14 at 17:43
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Yes you have the option, but those sentences have different meanings.

The first sentence, written in the simple past, is about what he did during the call. The time in the past that encompasses the call is the time in the past that encompasses what he said. Both are in the past to the reader but contemporaneous to each other.

Alternate: When he called her, he did not tell her about quitting his job.(Implication: When the call ended, he still had not told her.)

The second sentence, written in the past-perfect, is about what had already happened when the phone call was made. The time in the past that encompasses the call is preceded by the everything before that, which includes what he said or did not say about the job. Both are in the past to the reader but what he said (nothing) about quitting is in the past to the call.

Alternate: At the time that he called her, he had not yet told her about quitting his job. (Implication: If he told her during the call, it was the first she heard of it from him. But we don't know what happened during the call from this sentence.)

Notes: 1. My alternates are to display what would be understood from each sentence but are not better constructions. 2. We do not know from either sentence if he has already quit his job or if he is contemplating or has decided to quit.

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