Good morning, our teachers,

Would you please, help me to clarify the difference in meaning between the following two sentences:

  • People hadn't travelled easily round the world from west to east until they dug the Suez Canal.

 

  • People didn't travel easily round the world from west to east until they had dug the Suez Canal.

 

Many thanks ...

Original Post

Hi, Hussein,

I find both sentences awkward. If I had to use one of them, I would use the one with the simple past in the main clause, not the one with the past perfect in the main clause. Both sentences have the same meaning, though.

I recommend saying this instead:

  • The Suez Canal made traveling around the world from west to east much easier (than it had been).

Both sentences have the same meaning

I agree with David that both sentences end up meaning the same thing. 

I perceive (but cannot assert) a slight difference in focus between both sentences:

  • People hadn't travelled easily round the world from west to east until they dug the Suez Canal.

In this case, it seems to me that the focus lies on describing the situation before the construction of the canal: traveling from west to east was difficult and stopped being so when they constructed the canal.

  • People didn't travel easily round the world from west to east until they had dug the Suez Canal.

In this case, it seems to me that, by using the negative, the focus lies on the situation after the construction of the canal: traveling started to be easy after they constructed the canal (once they had dug it, traveling became easier).

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