In Martin Hewings' "Advanced Grammar in use 2nd edition", on page 10C, it is written that if the order of past events is clear from the context, we can choose either past simple or past perfect. He then gives three examples, one of which is, I quote:
They were given help and advice before they had made the decision. (or ...they made...)
No additional context is provided, so we must assume the sentence is stand-alone. I don't care for the past simple option. The past perfect variant bothers me. Can you please explain why is there a past perfect with the action that clearly happened AFTER the past simple action? I.e the word BEFORE clearly shows that FIRST they were given advice and THEN the made the decision. Why is past perfect acceptable here?
If anything, to my ear it should be "They had been given help before they made the decision".
Spent an hour today arguing with my colleague today about it, and she claims that it is absolutely clear from the sentence that they made the decision first and THEN were given advice. That is because past perfect is, for whatever reason, more important than the word BEFORE, which could be moved to the beginning of the sentence with no difference in meaning.
I.e it may as well be "Before they were given help and advice, they had made the decision". I agree the latter sentence is correct, but I absolutely disagree it is the SAME in meaning. I feel it is exact opposite in terms of what happened after what.
Anyway, she said the sentence sounded fine to her. I can't help but feel it's off.
Please comment on:
1. The logic of why past perfect is acceptable in the original sentence.
2. My colleague's logic.