Usage of had in the occurance of two events

English Language Learners Asked by Shoaib Ashraf on October 2, 2020

There’s a sentence in my book:

“Jack did not know why he failed in the examination.”

There are two events in the sentence:
1. Failing in the examination
2. Not knowing the reason

Since event 1 occurred before event 2, why did they not use “had” in the sentence?

2 Answers

"Didn't know" and "failed" both refer to a time that is before the present. Using "had failed" explicitly puts the failure before another past event (which might be when he did not know, or might be when the sentence is set).

Note that using "didn't know" instead of "doesn't know" outside a narrative suggests that Jack may now know, perhaps because he asked his lecturer.

Answered by Peter on October 2, 2020

I think that's because we're focused on the action of failing and not on the result of the action of failing in the past. Make sense?


— What happened?
— Jack failed the exam!
— Why did he fail the exam?
— Because he didn't prepare for it the way he should have.

Answered by Michael Rybkin on October 2, 2020

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