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View Full Version : practiced vs. had practiced



HaleyDaulton
10-10-2006, 10:38 PM
No matter how many times it's explained to me, I fail to understand the instance when one should use "regular" past tense vs. the other kind (e.g., "practiced" vs. "had practiced"). Can someone help?

JanDarby
10-10-2006, 10:55 PM
Anything that happened before the "now" of the story, has to be more past than the verb tense that's being used in the story's "now."

So, if you're telling the story in present tense, the stuff that's unfolding now is in present tense, and anything before that is in past tense. ("She goes to the store and sees something and thinks about what happenED the day before.")

If you're telling the story in past tense, the stuff that's unfolding now is in the simple past tense (no "had") and anything before that is in past perfect tense. ("She went to the store and saw something and thought about what HAD happened the day before.")

Or: "she practiced more today than she had practiced the day before."

JD

Eeman
10-12-2006, 12:27 AM
The "regular" past tense is called the "simple" past, while the "other" past tense is called the "past perfect."

Whenever you use "had" + "past participle," you are using the past perfect tense.

Example:

1. I ate the cake yesterday. (simple past)

2. I had just eaten all the cake when the doorbell rang. (past perfect)

In the first example, you can see that one thing only happened in the past: I ate.

In the second example, however, two events happened in the past:

1. I ate the cake.

and:

2. The doorbell rang.

Because eating the cake happened before the doorbell rang, I place it in the past perfect tense.

In other words, you use the past perfect when you want to make it clear that one event in the past happened before another event in the past.

If you do not use the past perfect in the example above, the meaning of the sentence changes.

Compare the following:

1. I had just eaten all the cake when the doorbell rang.

and:

2. I ate the cake when the doorbell rang.

Please let me know if this makes sense.

maestrowork
10-12-2006, 03:56 AM
Anything that happened before the "now" of the story, has to be more past than the verb tense that's being used in the story's "now."


But the tense is relative. It's used to offset the current "past tense" in a sentence or paragraph to make the relative times clear. E.g.:

He had practiced playing the piano the day before he performed in public.

In this case, the practice is earlier than the performance so it needs to be in past perfect.

However, if you have a passage simply telling us something that happened before, there's no need to use past perfect:

Two days before, he practiced playing the piano. Martha came in and told him she was pregnant.