Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Past perfect with until

I have an issue with the use of the past perfect tense with “until” (and sometimes “before”). Can you please tell me which of these sentences is correct and why?

She hadn’t realized that she was addicted to nicotine until she smoked ten cigarettes a day. (i.e.: Before she smoked that many cigarettes, she didn’t have that knowledge about herself - not realizing/knowing was earlier.) 

or

She didn’t realize that she was addicted to nicotine until she had smoked ten cigarettes a day. (i.e.: First she smoked that many cigarettes, and then she realized.)

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Comments

I would argue for a hybrid: “She didn’t realize … until she smoked 10 cigarettes a day.” The smoking of 10 cigarettes a day is a milestone or a marker in this smoker’s process/evolution. The realization happens suddenly. Once the smoker hit this milestone/marker of smoking 10 cigarettes a day, the realization hit her. The word “until” already signals the sequence of the events, and therefore, it is not necessary to use “had”.

In addition, to me "had" serves two functions: 1. as the past perfect, and/or 2. implying the act (verb) is a lengthy(ier) process.

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