I am sorry that I _____ before I _____ the explanation.

1) had stopped – finished 
2) stopped – had finished

Answer key: 2

The PAST PERFECT TENSE indicates that an action was completed (finished or "perfected") at some point in the past before something else happened. 

What I understand is the first action is "stopping" and the second is "finishing". So, why not #1?

 
 
 
Original Post
Freeguy posted:

I am sorry that I _____ before I _____ the explanation.

1) had stopped – finished 
2) stopped – had finished

Answer key: 2

Hi, Freeguy,

I agree with the answer key. Given those two choices, (2) is the only option that works. It would also be OK to use the simple past in both clauses:

3) I am sorry that I stopped before I finished the explanation.

Additionally, we could reduce the "before"-clause such that it would have a nonfinite verb phrase with an implied subject:

4) I am sorry that I stopped before finishing the explanation.

If we're using a finite "before"-clause, though, the past perfect works particularly nicely here because it suggests that the explanation was not completed.

2) I am sorry that I stopped before I had finished the explanation.

The reason (1) doesn't really work is that it indicates that the speaker is apologizing for stopping and then finishing the explanation.

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