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ESL forum > Ask for help > past perfect with ´until ´    

past perfect with ´until ´



Ruwayda37
Egypt

past perfect with ´until ´
 
Good day fellow teachers,
Could you please clarify the correct rule of using the past perfect with ´until ´:
 
I hadn ´t understood the lesson until you explained it.
VS
I didn ´t understand the lesson until you had explained it.
 
Are they both correct? But How? Only one action is supposed to be the first, so only one is supposed to be in the past perfect. I ´m so confused because opinions differ widely!
If only one is correct, which one is it? 

5 Dec 2016      



yanogator
United States

I ´ve always called the past perfect "the past of the past". Your first sentence is correct, because not understanding happened first, then you explained it. I think the negative clause at the beginning makes the sentence seem a little less clear.
 
An alternative that is commonly used, especially in speaking, is "I didn ´t understand the lesson until you explained it". Both "actions" are in the past, and the context makes the order clear, so it works for both of them to be in the simple past.
 
Bruce 

5 Dec 2016     



Ruwayda37
Egypt

Thanks, Bruce. Your answer is always clear and to the point. Have a good day!

5 Dec 2016     



Ruwayda37
Egypt

Sorry for asking again but I need to know which of the sentences is right to make sure I understand: The students hadn ´t clapped until he answered the question. VS The students didn ´t clap until he had answered the question.

5 Dec 2016     



yanogator
United States

This baffled me at first, but then I realized that there is a big difference between this pair and your first question.
 
The not understanding is an ongoing situation that ended when you explained it. This is very similar to the familiar situation of the past continuous being interrupted by the simple past. We were not understanding until you explained it. That is why "explained" is in the simple past. My alternative, with both in simple past, uses this idea, too. The reason the first clause can be in simple past is that understanding is  an ongoing "action", so the simple present and simple past on their own convey the idea of a continuous tense. So, to sum this up, this is a case of an ongoing action being interrupted. Informally, it can be accomplished with simple past/simple past. More formally, since one action was before the other, we use past perfect and simple past.
 
 
The clapping is a one-time event that happened after he answered the question, so the earlier action is in the past perfect. As before, the negative makes it harder to see. Without the negative, it would be "The students clapped when (or after) he had answered the question".
We could also say "The students didn ´t clap until after he had answered the question". I think the tenses are easier to understand with "after" in it. It ´s not necessary for understanding the sentence - just for understanding the tenses.
 
Bruce 

5 Dec 2016     



Ruwayda37
Egypt

I ´m afraid I don ´t quite understand the difference between the two pairs. I don ´t understand why the second sentence in the second pair is right.....

5 Dec 2016     



yanogator
United States

And I thought I had explained it so well.  I think you were overwhelmed by the length of my explanation. I ´ll condense it somewhat, to see if that helps.
 
Change the second sentence to the positive "The students clapped when (or after) he had explained it." This is two events that happened in the past, and the earlier event uses the past perfect tense, because that ´s the order of tenses. The presence of the negative doesn ´t change it, so "The students didn ´t clap until (after) he had explained it". Again, the earlier of the two events is in the past perfect, and the later one in the simple past. I added "after" to emphasize the sequence of events.
 
Better?
 
Bruce 
 
 

5 Dec 2016     



Ruwayda37
Egypt

Yes, much better! Thanks a lot for all your time and effort.

5 Dec 2016     



yanogator
United States

You ´re very welcome. Fortunately, these questions don ´t take a large amount of effort on my part, so I am happy to help. Both my English and Math students always appreciated my ability to explain things.

Bruce 

5 Dec 2016     



Ruwayda37
Egypt

We are also fortunate to be able to get your help. Thanks Bruce.

6 Dec 2016