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Incorrect Verb Sequence

Grammar Tutorial



As you've learned already, verbs have tenses to show when actions occur. When a sentence has more than one verb, the verbs must work together to tell when the different actions happened. This is called verb sequence. What's wrong with the verb sequence in the following sentence?

It rained five days ago before the sun had come out.

Rained is the simple past tense. Had come is the past perfect tense. The past perfect tells that an event occurred in the past before another event in the past. Here, the verb tenses tell that sun came out before it rained for five days. That doesn't make sense. Here is the correct verb sequence.

It had rained for five days before the sun came out.

Hint: To check verb sequence, first decide if the action of each verb occurs in the past, present, or future. If the actions are in the past, for example, decide if they happened at the same time or if one happened before another. Here are some examples of correct verb sequence.

I eat too much when I worry. (Both actions happen in the present, and at the same time)

I ate too much yesterday because I worried about the work. (Both actions happened in the past, and at the same time)

I had eaten three sandwiches before I realized it. (Both actions happened in the past, but the first action happened before the second, and it was completed before the second action)

See Parallel Structure



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