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If my friends arrange a dinner at my place at 8pm but they come at 7, can I say "I thought you had said you would come at 8" or should I use the past simple "I thought you said you would come at 8"

Lastly, if a mother asks her son to go to bed at 9pm but she notices half an hour later that he didn't listen. Should she say "I thought I had told you to go to bed" or "I thought I told you to go to bed".

I think people would use the past simple but I don't get why. Thanks in advance.

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Both are valid

Both versions are valid and understandable to English speakers. Neither would be considered strange. However, there is a strong preference for the simple past in these cases, but I don't think there is a compelling reason why.

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I thought you said you would come at 8.

This is the past simple tense and is the most common usage.

I thought you had said you would come at 8.

This is the past perfect tense and is equally grammatically correct. The perfect tenses usually imply that something has occurred or completed prior to a point in time (even if that point in time is now), and is rarely incorrect.

I thought you had said earlier that you would come at 8.

This is also the past perfect tense, but specifies a time of completion of the action, earlier, and is therefore a more complete version of past perfect.

None of these is incorrect, and all have the same gross meaning.

  • Thank you. If a add a time frame can I use the past simple and the past perfect equally too? E.g: I thought you told me that the girls returned home at 8:00 last night // thought you had told me that the girls had returned home at 8:00 last night. – Paps Feb 22 at 15:48
  • You can. Both are using past perfect because 'told' is the verb that the subject 'you' is taking - the rest is predicate. The second sentence, 'had/had', isn't wrong. It does sound a little odd, but there may be context where it's more appropriate, possibly if the previous sentence was "the girls didn't come home last night." Maybe dad was covering for them and told mom that they were home and in bed. When mom is furious the next morning she says she thought he had told her (he had, the previous night) the girls had returned home (the previous night it was already a past tense statement). – Jesse Williams Feb 22 at 16:07
  • Ok thank you. At first, given "think" is a reporting verb, I thought it worked like "say/tell". E.g: He did a great job ==> He said he had done a great job. Thus, to me, "I told you to go to bed" ==> I thought I had told you to go to bed. But apparently both tenses (past simple/perfect) are fine. It's rather strange because in my Latin language I'd only use the past perfect. – Paps Feb 22 at 16:32
  • Yeah, English plays fast and loose with syntax and grammar sometimes, primarily because it's rooted in a whole mess of varying languages. – Jesse Williams Feb 22 at 16:57

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