What's the difference between past perfect and past simple?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English. Classroom problems, lesson planning, career advice, staff...

Moderator: Susan

What's the difference between past perfect and past simple?

Unread postby ruri » 28 Mar 2006, 21:07

Hello,

I have just been over the past perfect with reasonably advanced students.

The past perfect is used to sequence 2 past actions - something in the past that occurs before another event/action in the past. (right?)

In class we were going through a text, changing verb forms where needed. We came across the correct sentence:

His wife retrieved it from the rubbish bin, and soon afterwards it was accepted for an award.


One of my students then asked why we would not use the past perfect in this case, since the sentence talks about 2 past events (in sequence).

His wife had retrieved it from the rubbish bin, and soon afterwards it had been accepted for an award.

This one is bugging me- maybe the answer is very straight-forward, but I'm not having much luck figuring it out!

Could you please try to shed some light on this for me?

Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing back.
ruri
Registered Member
 
Posts: 1
Joined: 28 Mar 2006, 20:54
Location: Switzerland

Past perfect vs past simple

Unread postby Lucy » 30 Mar 2006, 18:56

Dear Ruri,

You are right to say that the past perfect is used to sequence 2 past actions with one event occurring before the other.

When two actions occur close together in time, the past perfect can be used but it is more common to use two verbs in the past simple. In your example, the words “soon afterwards” indicate that the two actions occurred close together in time.

So you could say “His wife had retrieved it from the rubbish bin, and soon afterwards it was accepted for an award”.

Or “His wife retrieved it from the rubbish bin, and soon afterwards it was accepted for an award”.

Both would be correct with the second sentence being more usual. In your past perfect sentence, both verbs are in the past perfect and so this is not correct.

I hope this will help; the past perfect is not an easy tense to teach.

Good luck!

Lucy
User avatar
Lucy
Moderator
 
Posts: 606
Joined: 13 Jan 2004, 16:09
Location: France
Status: Teacher Trainer


Return to TEFL Help Desk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests