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# GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense

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Magoosh GMAT Instructor
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GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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27 Jul 2012, 13:38
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Here's some help on the tricky perfect tense from Magoosh's Chris Lele:

Present Perfect: Has/have + Participle

Past Perfect: Had + Participle (plus another verb in the Simple Past)

Two of the most confusing tenses in English are the present perfect and the past perfect. This is because both describe continuous actions. To illustrate, let’s take a look at the following sentences:

1. Last night, I walked my dog.

2. I have walked Bucky every night for the last two years.

In the first sentence, I am doing the action, ‘walk’, only once. In the second sentence, I am describing something that has taken place on a number of occasions in the past and continues on till today (meaning tonight I will most likely walk Bucky).

The first tense is the simple past (if you look at my description it is very simple). The perfect tenses, on the other hand, aren’t so simple. To show you what I mean, let’s compare the present and the past.

Present Perfect vs. Past Perfect

1. Before I moved to California, I had walked Bucky in the mornings, not at nights.

2. Since moving to California, I have walked Bucky every evening.

The first sentence is an example of the past perfect tense. Notice, like the present perfect, that we have the verb ‘have’ coupled with another verb (which we call the participle).

Why use one tense versus the other? Well, if you notice in the first sentence, I am talking about two events that happened in the past: my walking Bucky and my moving to California. Whenever you are dealing with two events in the past, one of which started or happened before the other, you must use the past perfect tense to describe the event that started first.

First Event: I walked Bucky in the morning = Past Perfect Construction

Second Event: I moved to California = Simple Past

Another way to think of the past perfect is with specific dates. Let’s say I moved to California in 1984. I walked Bucky every morning from 1981 to 1984. The sentence implies that once I moved to California I no longer walked Bucky in the morning. That is, an event that happened repeatedly in the past stopped when another event happened. That interrupting event uses the simple past.

Practice questions:

1) The corporation suffered/had suffered from consecutive quarterly losses until it hired/had hired a new CEO.

2) Every Christmas, the CEO granted/has granted employees three days off to celebrate the holidays.

In the first sentence, the event that happened first is the corporation suffering. So we want the past perfect tense: had suffered. The more recent action, the hiring of a new CEO, should be in simple past: hired.

For the second sentence, we want to describe an event that started in the past and continues in the present. So we need to use the present perfect tense: has granted.

Key Points

• Present Perfect: Has/Have + Participle = describes action/event that happened in the past and continues in the present.
• Past Perfect: Had + Participle = describes an action/event in the past that happened before another action in the past.
• Whenever we use the past perfect, we must also have another verb in the sentence that is in the simple past.

Let us know if you have any questions about this, and we would be happy to help!
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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03 Aug 2012, 08:36
great

I suplement some point.

according to Gmat Grammar Book by gmatclub, past perfect continuous can shows an action which begin in the past and continue into another past action. But gmat dose not test this point. forget this point.

in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame. for example

I had succeeded gmat by JUne 2012.

is correct sentence on gmat.

past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action. It seems that question 3 or 13 og 12 test this point.

pls, comment/confirm.
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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03 Aug 2012, 18:23
thangvietnam wrote:
great

I suplement some point.

according to Gmat Grammar Book by gmatclub, past perfect continuous can shows an action which begin in the past and continue into another past action. But gmat dose not test this point. forget this point.

in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame. for example

I had succeeded gmat by JUne 2012.

is correct sentence on gmat.

past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action. It seems that question 3 or 13 og 12 test this point.

pls, comment/confirm.

mentioning the tenses you have used..
m confused...
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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06 Aug 2012, 13:10
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Expert's post
mohan514 wrote:
thangvietnam wrote:
I suplement some point.

according to Gmat Grammar Book by gmatclub, past perfect continuous can shows an action which begin in the past and continue into another past action. But gmat dose not test this point. forget this point.

in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame. for example

I had succeeded gmat by JUne 2012.

is correct sentence on gmat.

past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action. It seems that question 3 or 13 og 12 test this point. pls, comment/confirm.

mentioning the tenses you have used..
m confused...

So, first of all, what thangvietnam calls the "past perfect continuous" I think I would call the "past perfect progressive" --- e.g.

Before dinner last night, I had been reviewing the accounts in my office.

Yes, that is a grammatically correct sentence, and yes, this construction is sufficiently arcane that you need not worry about it appearing on the GMAT. It is beyond the pale.

As for thangvietnam's claim that "in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame" ---- I am very skeptical. Yes, in informal conversation, we can say things like
a) I had taken the GMAT before the 2012 spring semester.
etc.
but these sentences lack the formalism typical of GMAT SC. I would say: when you see the past perfect used in one clause, expect to see another full clause (independent or subordinate) in which the verb is a regular past tense. For example:

OG12 SC #3 (a question dropped in the OG13)
Although various .... poets had professed ..... it was not until 1900 when scholars and critics began .....
had professed = past perfect tense
began = simple past tense
Each appears in a clause of its own.

Finally, I agree with thangvietnam's claim: "past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action." Yes. When the GMAT is asking you to sort out simple past vs. past perfect, it will make it clear and unambiguous which one was the previous action. You will not have to deal with the grammar of one past action starting earlier and running into another past action ---- yes, there are correct ways to discuss such things, but again, that's far to arcane, and the GMAT doesn't touch it.

Does this answer all the questions? Please let me know if either of you, or anyone else reading this, has any more questions.

Mike
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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08 Aug 2012, 04:46
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margarette wrote:

Practice questions:

1) The corporation suffered/had suffered from consecutive quarterly losses until it hired/had hired a new CEO.

In the first sentence, the event that happened first is the corporation suffering. So we want the past perfect tense: had suffered. The more recent action, the hiring of a new CEO, should be in simple past: hired.

I read on MGMAT SC guide that past perfect should be used only when the order of events has to be made clear. In this case, isnt the order of events clear (because of the use of the word until)? So, shouldn't we use simple past?
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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08 Aug 2012, 13:19
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Expert's post
sagiyer wrote:
margarette wrote:

Practice questions:

1) The corporation suffered/had suffered from consecutive quarterly losses until it hired/had hired a new CEO.

In the first sentence, the event that happened first is the corporation suffering. So we want the past perfect tense: had suffered. The more recent action, the hiring of a new CEO, should be in simple past: hired.

I read on MGMAT SC guide that past perfect should be used only when the order of events has to be made clear. In this case, isnt the order of events clear (because of the use of the word until)? So, shouldn't we use simple past?

That's an excellent question. If we used the simple past for both verbs, the order would be perfectly clear from the word "until", and the sentence would be 100% grammatically correct. Some people (including, apparently, MGMAT) would argue that using the past perfect vs. simple past distinction in the verbs in addition to the word "until" would be redundant ---- but in GMAT terms, that's not blatantly incorrect in the way that incorrect SC answer choices are incorrect. It's true, this is probably not an optimal example to demonstrate use of the past perfect, especially since a stronger argument can be mounted for using only the simple past tense. I would say the more important point is that you seem to have a sophisticated understanding of the past perfect, and that's what matters.

Mike
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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08 Mar 2013, 06:38
Must + Past Perfect (Perfective)

The modal must is not used to indicate a past obligation. Must + past perfect (perfective) is used only to indicate a logical conclusion in the past.

Jack’s car is in the driveway. He must have stayed home today.
(He probably stayed home.)

Alex is still in bed. She must have had a good time at the party.
(She probably had a good time.)

They haven’t arrived yet. They must have got caught in traffic.
(They probably got caught in traffic.)

How are have stayed, have had and haven't arrived - past perfect verb tenses?
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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25 Jun 2013, 10:28
Hey,

Was going through the above posts and found that someone used the following eg to illustrate the usage of Past Perfect

" Before dinner last night, I had been reviewing the accounts in my office. "
But as per Manhattan SC, we don't need to use past perfect when sequence is clear(purpose solved by using Before/After)

But I have come across many such example where both Had and words like after/before/until have been used in the same sentence while Manhattan has clearly mentioned such usage to be wrong. So can I use the technique mentioned in Manhattan when stuck between choices?
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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25 Jun 2013, 14:19
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Shashank8888 wrote:
Hey,

Was going through the above posts and found that someone used the following eg to illustrate the usage of Past Perfect

" Before dinner last night, I had been reviewing the accounts in my office. "
But as per Manhattan SC, we don't need to use past perfect when sequence is clear(purpose solved by using Before/After)

But I have come across many such example where both Had and words like after/before/until have been used in the same sentence while Manhattan has clearly mentioned such usage to be wrong. So can I use the technique mentioned in Manhattan when stuck between choices?

Dear Shashank8888,
First of all, remember that, unlike mathematics, grammar is not necessarily a realm of absolute black vs. white right & wrong. There are always shades of gray.

I would say that use of past perfect with another time word (before, after, until, etc.) is slightly redundant. It's slightly sub-optimal, but not out-and-out wrong. I believe what MGMAT says is that this structure would not appear as correct on the GMAT, and I believe they are completely right in this assertion. The GMAT SC adheres to exceptionally high standards. This does not make the construction 100% wrong. You will see it occasionally in sophisticated writing (NYT, WSJ, etc.) I would say, if you see a practice GMAT question source that uses this construction frequently, then this source is probably not fully aware of the standards held by the GMAT. You would be surprised how many sources of GMAT SC practice questions simply have no clue about the standards the GMAT keeps. I find it simply astonishing how many poor sources of GMAT SC there are, and it makes me sad how much unsuspecting student trust these sources.

Does all this make sense?

Mike
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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28 Jun 2013, 13:22
Hey Mike, thanks for the detailed explanation.

As you mention that such usage is redundant but not 100% wrong.
So say for eg if I get stuck on the following two options, should I go for option b?(eliminating option A for redundancy)

a) Before dinner last night, I had been reviewing the accounts in my office.
b) Before dinner last night, I reviewed the accounts in my office.

You mentioned the poor knowledge about the SC rules that some of the GMAT coaching companies/websites have.
Well my Test Date is only 15 days away and Manhattan SC is the only source I have used for SC.

Can you please suggest some good source to brush up all the rule before the test.

Thanks
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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28 Jun 2013, 13:56
1
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Shashank8888 wrote:
Hey Mike, thanks for the detailed explanation.

As you mention that such usage is redundant but not 100% wrong.
So say for eg if I get stuck on the following two options, should I go for option b?(eliminating option A for redundancy)

a) Before dinner last night, I had been reviewing the accounts in my office.
b) Before dinner last night, I reviewed the accounts in my office.

You mentioned the poor knowledge about the SC rules that some of the GMAT coaching companies/websites have.
Well my Test Date is only 15 days away and Manhattan SC is the only source I have used for SC.

Can you please suggest some good source to brush up all the rule before the test.

Thanks

Dear Shashank8888,
As for sentence (a) & (b), I don't think the GMAT would give you something that close without some other kind of error (pronoun, idiom, etc.) to distinguish them. Most often, GMAT SC are multidimensional.
MGMAT is an excellent source. Also, take a look at this blog article:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2013/sequence-o ... orrection/
You will find several articles about SC, with practice questions, on that blog.
Mike
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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21 Aug 2014, 13:22
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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29 Aug 2015, 07:40
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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12 May 2016, 23:54
Helpful article, but what about sentence that has more than 2 or 3 verbs , I have had this issue with approaching such questions.
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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13 May 2016, 14:45
sriamlan wrote:
Helpful article, but what about sentence that has more than 2 or 3 verbs , I have had this issue with approaching such questions.

Dear sriamlan,
I'm happy to respond. My friend, you have asked a question that is not particularly clear. If you are striving for GMAT success, it is worthwhile to embrace the habits of excellence. One of the habits of excellence is becoming an excellent "question asker." See this post:
I am going to challenge you to ask this question again by asking the highest quality question you possibly can ask. You may include examples from your practice questions: these may even be links to questions on other part of GMAT Club. For each question, you will make clear what you understand and ask about what you don't understand. If you put thought and effort into writing your questions, this not only helps me to answer you more specifically, but it also helps you by preparing your brain to learn what it doesn't know yet.

Does all this make sense?
Mike
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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24 Jun 2016, 17:59
thangvietnam wrote:
great

I suplement some point.

according to Gmat Grammar Book by gmatclub, past perfect continuous can shows an action which begin in the past and continue into another past action. But gmat dose not test this point. forget this point.

in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame. for example

I had succeeded gmat by JUne 2012.

is correct sentence on gmat.

past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action. It seems that question 3 or 13 og 12 test this point.

pls, comment/confirm.

My trouble with Past Perfect/Past Continuous:-
Past Perfect=2 events sequentially related.(E1<older>,E2<old>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?

Past Continuous=2 discrete events.(E1<longer>,E2<shorter>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?

Then what is the difference between the 2?
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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24 Jun 2016, 18:03
mikemcgarry wrote:
sriamlan wrote:
Helpful article, but what about sentence that has more than 2 or 3 verbs , I have had this issue with approaching such questions.

Dear sriamlan,
I'm happy to respond. My friend, you have asked a question that is not particularly clear. If you are striving for GMAT success, it is worthwhile to embrace the habits of excellence. One of the habits of excellence is becoming an excellent "question asker." See this post:
I am going to challenge you to ask this question again by asking the highest quality question you possibly can ask. You may include examples from your practice questions: these may even be links to questions on other part of GMAT Club. For each question, you will make clear what you understand and ask about what you don't understand. If you put thought and effort into writing your questions, this not only helps me to answer you more specifically, but it also helps you by preparing your brain to learn what it doesn't know yet.

Does all this make sense?
Mike

My trouble with Past Perfect/Past Continuous:-
Past Perfect=2 events sequentially related.(E1<older>,E2<old>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?

Past Continuous=2 discrete events.(E1<longer>,E2<shorter>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?

Then what is the difference between the 2?
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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24 Jun 2016, 19:45
sriamlan wrote:
Helpful article, but what about sentence that has more than 2 or 3 verbs , I have had this issue with approaching such questions.

When a complex sentence has multiple verbs and you are confused,Follow this rule:
1.Separate the Independent clause and Dependent Clause.
2.If IC=Present/Future ;then DC can be=all 3 tenses.
3.If IC=past ; then DC can =only be past.
4.Put all the verbs on a timeline and they must follow a logical pattern.

Hope this helps.
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GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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27 Jun 2016, 02:42
anu311 wrote:
mikemcgarry wrote:
sriamlan wrote:
Helpful article, but what about sentence that has more than 2 or 3 verbs , I have had this issue with approaching such questions.

Dear sriamlan,
I'm happy to respond. My friend, you have asked a question that is not particularly clear. If you are striving for GMAT success, it is worthwhile to embrace the habits of excellence. One of the habits of excellence is becoming an excellent "question asker." See this post:
I am going to challenge you to ask this question again by asking the highest quality question you possibly can ask. You may include examples from your practice questions: these may even be links to questions on other part of GMAT Club. For each question, you will make clear what you understand and ask about what you don't understand. If you put thought and effort into writing your questions, this not only helps me to answer you more specifically, but it also helps you by preparing your brain to learn what it doesn't know yet.

Does all this make sense?
Mike

My trouble with Past Perfect/Past Continuous:-
Past Perfect=2 events sequentially related.(E1<older>,E2<old>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?

Past Continuous=2 discrete events.(E1<longer>,E2<shorter>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?

Then what is the difference between the 2?

"Past Perfect=2 events sequentially related.(E1<older>,E2<old>)
Event E1 continues till it is stopped by Event E2.Am I right ?"

The word "till" is incorrect. The older event E1 must have started and completed BEFORE the event E2 started. E1 need not continue TILL E2 starts. There could be time gap between E1 and E2. The basic purpose of using past perfect is that there must be some bearing between event E1 and E2 and highlighting the sequence is important to highlight this bearing.

I was doing my homework when my father came home.. I was still doing homework when my father came home - the homework was still incomplete.
I had done my homework when my father came home... I completed doing homework BEFORE my father came home.

(Also note that in general when using "before", the use of past perfect is redundant. The usage of "before" already highlights the sequence and hence past perfect would be redundant :
I had done my homework before my father came home...wrong)

The usage of past continuous you mentioned is alright. Nonetheless there is another use of past continuous as follows:

E2 happened, when E1 was happening in the background.

It was raining when my father came home.
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Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense [#permalink]

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31 Jul 2016, 22:16
mikemcgarry wrote:
mohan514 wrote:
thangvietnam wrote:
I suplement some point.

according to Gmat Grammar Book by gmatclub, past perfect continuous can shows an action which begin in the past and continue into another past action. But gmat dose not test this point. forget this point.

in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame. for example

I had succeeded gmat by JUne 2012.

is correct sentence on gmat.

past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action. It seems that question 3 or 13 og 12 test this point. pls, comment/confirm.

mentioning the tenses you have used..

m confused...

So, first of all, what thangvietnam calls the "past perfect continuous" I think I would call the "past perfect progressive" --- e.g.

Before dinner last night, I had been reviewing the accounts in my office.

Yes, that is a grammatically correct sentence, and yes, this construction is sufficiently arcane that you need not worry about it appearing on the GMAT. It is beyond the pale.

As for thangvietnam's claim that "in the sequence of 2 past actions, the latter past action can be replaced with a time frame" ---- I am very skeptical. Yes, in informal conversation, we can say things like
a) I had taken the GMAT before the 2012 spring semester.
etc.
but these sentences lack the formalism typical of GMAT SC. I would say: when you see the past perfect used in one clause, expect to see another full clause (independent or subordinate) in which the verb is a regular past tense. For example:

OG12 SC #3 (a question dropped in the OG13)
Although various .... poets had professed ..... it was not until 1900 when scholars and critics began .....
had professed = past perfect tense
began = simple past tense
Each appears in a clause of its own.

Finally, I agree with thangvietnam's claim: "past perfect never is used to show an action which begin in the past and continue in to another past action." Yes. When the GMAT is asking you to sort out simple past vs. past perfect, it will make it clear and unambiguous which one was the previous action. You will not have to deal with the grammar of one past action starting earlier and running into another past action ---- yes, there are correct ways to discuss such things, but again, that's far to arcane, and the GMAT doesn't touch it.

Does this answer all the questions? Please let me know if either of you, or anyone else reading this, has any more questions.

Mike

Mike, Thank you so much for the explanation. It's pretty helpful. Please help me understand what if we have three actions in the past and we have to use past perfect & simple past to point to the timelines.
Re: GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense   [#permalink] 31 Jul 2016, 22:16

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# GMAT Verbs: The Perfect Tense

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