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There is no reason you couldn’t use the simple past tense in the first example. I explained this rule to you for half a lesson before I gave a test There is also no reason you couldn’t use the past perfect tense in the second sentence. They had been married for a few years before divorcing in 2016. These are both grammatical, as are your original ...


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If you want to talk about an action as something that caused something, then the action is functioning as a noun (it's a thing that is doing stuff). A noun formed from a verb is a gerund. So it would be "Spending my life ..."


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You are looking for what old-school grammarians might call the "pluperfect tense". That verb construction describes a state of being in the past in which an action was performed in the even more distant past and was completed. For example: I had walked. As in, He came to me twenty years ago. At that point in my career, I had walked many thousands of ...


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[a dialogue often illustrates usage more clearly] Just to show how English might actually be spoken: John: They'd been married for a few years before they got a divorce in 2009. Mary: No, they hadn't. That's wrong. John: You mean they'd been living together? Is that it? Mary: Well, they might have been, I'm not sure. But one thing's for sure. They hadn't ...


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