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Verb Tenses

Grammar BitesA quick note today about verb tenses in a particular construction.  If you have a sentence similar to this one:

She finished cleaning the kitchen when the doorbell rang.

You need to have the first part of the sentence be an “older tense” (past perfect, in this case). The reason is that there’s an unspoken “then” in this construct.  She finished cleaning the kitchen and then the doorbell rang.  To communicate that without actually saying “and then,” you make the first part of the sentence past perfect, then the last half simple past.

She had finished cleaning the kitchen when the doorbell rang.

If you don’t do that, it reads as though she finished cleaning the kitchen at the same time the doorbell rang, perhaps doing it because the doorbell rang. Which sounds like something I would do, but that’s another story 😉

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