Learn English – past simple vs past perfect

grammarpast-tenseperfect-aspecttenses

My question might seem to be stupid enough, it's basic grammar, I believe; however, I'm at my wits' end. Should we use Past perfect or Past Simple in the following sentence:

He promised/ had promised to turn up at 4, but appeared at 9?

Best Answer

Chris Sunami's answer is correct but I think I can provide a picture to visualise the difference:

  1. He promised to turn up at 4, but appeared at 9

  2. He had promised to turn up at 4, but appeared at 9

In the first version, that uses simple past, both the promise and the failure to appear happen at an undetermined time in the past.

However, in the second version, using the past perfect, the promise and the failure to appear happen at two distinct times in the past. By using the past perfect we are spelling out that the promise takes place before the failure to attend.

One can use the second version if it is important to draw this distinction.