Come on, let's conduct our business and our social interactions as if grammar really does matter. Otherwise, like, we'll just, like, sink to the lowest common denominator and somebody's gonna, like, think we're, like, dumb or sum'pin.
TWO PAST ACTIONS IN THE SAME SENTENCE: Proper timing
Guideline. When two verbs expressing past actions appear in the same sentence, use the past perfect tense (the verb preceded by had) to express the earlier of the two actions.
A closer look. Using the past perfect tense for one of the two past actions expressed in the same sentence tells the reader which action took place first. This principle applies to both straight statements and hypothetical statements.
I had intended [not I intended] before I arrived this morning to talk about what happened during yesterday's frog-jumping contest. (The verb had intended is in the past perfect tense because the intention was formed before the arrival.)
I had not realized [not did not realize] before I began looking into the matter how serious Sassafras was about the plan. (The verb phrase had not realized is in the past perfect tense because the realization took place before the speaker began looking into the matter.)
If they had spent more time on motivating the frogs and less time talking about the taste of frog legs, the afternoon activities would have gone much more smoothly. (The verb had spent, in the past perfect tense, is used here because the spending should have taken place before the afternoon activities.)
TO BE or TO HAVE BEEN: More timing
Guideline. Favor the perfect form of the infinitive (to have...) when the action expressed in the infinitive took place before the action expressed in the main verb, but use the simpler form if the sentence sounds awkward.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with all of you on the high school reunion project. (The expression of gratitude was preceded by the action of having worked on the project.)
I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with all of you on the high school reunion project. (The meaning stays the same, but this time a true verb had is used instead of the infinitive.)
The problems were supposed to have been worked out before we lost another classmate. (Correct grammar but somewhat formal.)
The problems were supposed to be worked out before we lost another classmate. (Not quite as proper but generally acceptable.)