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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Please, help me to choose the right tense!    

Please, help me to choose the right tense!

Russian Federation

Please, help me to choose the right tense!
Hello to everyone!

I’d like to ask you to help me solve my problem - I can ´t decide what grammatical tense is better. I am interested in the clause.


The sentence is: We were surprised to find out that she HAD FINISHED or FINISHED school at the age of 14.

On the one hand, HAD FINISHED is right as the action is prior + sequence of tenses.

On the other hand, we have an action which took place some years ago when the girl was 14 and now it remains only a fact and it is in no way connected with the first part of the sentence.

I feel that Past Simple is enough, but I can be mistaken.


If you can help me, I’d be very grateful!

2 Mar 2013      


The past simple ´finished ´ is quite OK.   
The past perfect could be used correctly if you thought she had a university degree, for example, and you were expressing surprise that she had finished school at 14.

2 Mar 2013     

Russian Federation

Thank you so much for the reply!
I guess it depends on the context and it is sometimes very difficult to translate a separate sentence without the text itself (from Russian into English I mean).
Thank you once again!

2 Mar 2013     

United States

I agree with Apodo, but would add that in formal writing, "had finished" would be better, because of the sequence you mentioned. In informal writing or speech, "finished" is fine and commonly used.

2 Mar 2013     

Russian Federation

Thank you so much!

2 Mar 2013