Past Simple vs Past Perfect: Rioters in court

When do you use the past perfect or the past simple? Look out for past perfect (Italics) and past simple (Bold) in the article.

To deal with the 922 arrested people that have be put on trial because of looting in London  last week, Westminster Magistrates’ Court has been open round the clock. One man tried to explain to Judge Elizabeth Roscoe, that he had gone into a PC World computer shop which had been looted the previous day because he was curious to see what had been stolen because he was a freelance journalist. This excuse amused various journalists who were reporting from the court, but Judge Roscoe failed to see the funny side. She told him that he faced a prison sentence. Fortunately, the accused pleaded guilty to the charge of burglary, which may result in him receiving a reduced sentence when he eventually receives his punishment. The next to appear in the dock was a 17 year old girl who had handed herself into police after she had seen her picture in a national newspaper.  She had stolen 2 televisions from the Richer Sounds store in Croydon, which had had £190,000 of electronic equipment stolen from the premises.  As the judge arranged for her to appear in a youth court next week, she nervously chewed her nails, clearly showing regret for her actions. Another woman had handed herself into police the day after she had stolen a £300 television from a shop in Enfield. The 24 year old had been on her way to McDonald’s when she saw that other people had broken into the store. Her lawyer said that she had gone to the police as she could not sleep through guilt. In total, almost 100 people appeared at Westminster courts overnight and proceedings appeared to be passing smoothly without too many problems. Past Perfect vs Past Simple Use the past simple when you only want to talk about a finished action from the past. But if you look back from a point in the past to say what happened before, use the Past Perfect. In the article, every action relating to the day at Westminster Court is our ‘time point in the past’ (Which we use the past simple for). Everything that happened before then (e.g. the looting and people giving themselves in to the police) is before our ‘point in the past’, so we use the past perfect for all those events/actions.

PAST PERFECT form: had   &   past participle (e.g. been, finished, thought) When we are telling a story about the past (e.g  Tuesday 9th August) and then we want to talk about things that happened before this time (e.g. Monday 8th August 2011), then we use the past perfect. In other words, the past perfect is an ‘earlier past’, when we ‘go back’ from a point in the past to say what happened before that moment. Yesterday, I got to the pub at 8pm, but my friends had left to go to the cinema at 7.30pm.

P.s.  There is a bit more help with the past perfect and other past tenses (including Simple Past) here.

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