Grammar: The Past Perfect Tense in English

What is the Past Perfect Tense? See examples and how to form the Past Perfect Tense.

Forming the Past Perfect Tense

The Past Perfect tense in English is composed of two parts: the past tense of the verb to have (had) + the past participle of the main verb.

Positive form:

S + had + past participle + …       

E.gShe had finished.

Negative form:

S + had not + past participle + …                

(had not = hadn’t)

E.gShe hadn’t finished.

Question form:

Had + S + past participle + …?                      

E.gHad she finished?

When do We Use the Past Perfect Tense

  • Action finished before another past action       

E.gRichard had gone out when his wife arrived in the office.

  • Action happened before a specific time in the past

E.gChristine had never been to an opera before last night.

  • Action started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past    

E.gWe had owned that car for ten years before it broke down.

  • Cause and effect (combine with Past Simple)               

E.gI got stuck in traffic because there had been an accident.

  • Emphasize the result of an activity in the past                 

E.ghad been to London twice by the time I got a job in New York.

Time Expressions in the Past Perfect Tense

  • already
  • yet
  • for
  • since
  • never
  • just
  • after
  • before
  • until
  • the moment that

Past Perfect Tense | Picture

Past Perfect Tense

Grammar: The Past Perfect Tense in English 1

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