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My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process.

It's from a book. Does it make sense to you? Because the author uses the past perfect tense and then the past progressive tense, right? I can't really find anything regarding this form online.

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    English is very flexible about mixing tenses. He'd previously taken his shirt off, and then poured beer on his chest. – Barmar Apr 1 '20 at 22:49
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    Native speakers choose verb forms (tenses) clause by clause. Although it is very common that the tense in the second clause is the same as the tense in the first clause, this is in no sense a "rule". Without the context I would interpret the sentence as: Before I walked into the room, the attorney had taken off his shirt (past perfect). As I walked into the room he was in the process of pouring beer onto his chest (past continuous). – Shoe Apr 2 '20 at 7:04
  • The activity is a bit weird, particularly if the attorney was doing this in the office, but the grammatical structure is used a lot. For instance "When I found him in the restaurant Alec had already ordered a meal and was eating heartily." The speaker found Alex in the restaurant (past tense), Alex had ordered a meal (past perfect because the ordering had happened before the finding) and Alex was eating heartily (past continuous because the eating was going on when the speaker found Alex). – BoldBen Sep 29 '20 at 6:47
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The tense used for the verb "to pour" does not matter, as long as it is a tense of the past; this is so because the past perfect is used for actions that happened before another action that happens in the past (ref.). So the following would also be correct.

  • My attorney had taken his shirt off and he poured beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process.
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  • 'My attorney took off his shirt and poured beer on his chest to facilitate the tanning process', that sounds better. Why mixing two tenses that are timed afar? – Ram Pillai Apr 2 '20 at 4:30
  • It isn't 'better', just different. It implies that the speaker watched the whole process. He had taken his shirt off could mean that he had already done so when the speaker saw him. The continuous tense indicates that he was still pouring the beer. – Kate Bunting Apr 2 '20 at 8:13
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The past perfect is a sort of double past tense. The pouring of beer on his chest was preceded by his taking off his shirt.

The point of time the sentence is concerned with is that when he was pouring beer on his chest. The taking off of the shirt occurred at some previous, unspecified time.

Were the sentence to read My attorney took off his shirt and poured beer on his chest it would be a series of events where and would mark order and not coordination.

Note what happens when we reverse the order:

My attorney was pouring beer on his chest and had taken off his shirt

vs

My attorney was pouring beer on his chest and took off his shirt.

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