Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense in english

Past Perfect Tense is the past equivalent of the Present Perfect Tense.

Past Perfect Tense is used to talk about an action that happened before a particular point of time in the past.

For example;
past perfect tense english

Here, it communicates that, the first action happened before the second action. We use Past Perfect Tense to explain the action that happened first. However, both the actions took place in the past and the completed action which took place after the first action is conveyed using Simple Present Tense (e.g. Lilly arrived).

Past Perfect Tense – Verb form

Had + V3 (Past Participle form of the main verb)
Further clarifications
What is “had” here?

Had is a primary auxiliary. The base form of it is “have”. We use “had” here to indicate that the action has happened in the past. Whether the subject is in Singular or Plural, we use “had” in all the Past Perfect Tenses.

What is the “Past Participle" form of a main verb?

The complete verb in the Past Perfect Tense is made by adding the Past Participle form of the main verb in the sentence to the verb “had”.

Any action verb has different forms as follows. These different verb forms are used to create the Complete Verb in different tenses.

Eg: different forms of the verb “go” and “work”.

Base form (Simple Present – Plural) go work
Simple Present – Singular verb form goes works
Simple Past verb form (V2) went worked
Present Participle verb form going working
Past Participle verb form (V3) gone worked

Let’s take a look an example sentence.

Eg: - She had worked hard until she retired last year.

Let’s see how we could construct Past Perfect Tense sentences with different subjects.

Positive Sentences

  • I had worked hard until I retired last year.
  • He had worked hard until he retired last year.
  • She had worked hard until she retired last year.
  • We had worked hard until we retired last year.
  • You had worked hard until you retired last year.
  • They had worked hard until they retired last year.

Past Perfect Tense – Sentences and Questions

The following table elaborates how we should construct the sentences with the correct verb form for different purposes;-

  • Purpose 01 - Conveying a positive idea. (Say Yes)
  • Purpose 02 - Conveying a negative idea. (Say No)
  • Purpose 03 - Interrogations (Asking Questions)
past perfect tense  positive negative english

Practical Usage - Past Perfect Tense

Let’s discuss, when and where to use Past Perfect Tense.

To talk about an action which began before the time of speaking in the past and finished at a point of time in the past.

I met Tina yesterday and it was her last day at work. She had been a teacher for more than 10 years.

past perfect tense timeline english

To talk about Past Actions in the order of happening.

When Mr. Dias arrived, Mr. Darcy had already left.

  • 1st Action – Mr. Darcy had already left
  • 2nd Action – Mr. Dias arrived

She had read the book before he gifted it to her.

  • 1st Action – She had read the book
  • 2nd Action - he gifted the book to her

Tina had gone out by the time Rita arrived.

  • 1st Action – Tina had gone out
  • 2nd Action - Rita arrived

Before we had finished writing, the teacher erased the board.

  • 1st Action – the teacher erased the board
  • 2nd Action - we had finished writing (Action incomplete)


Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Tense is used to talk about past events which have their impact on present activities / situations.....

Read More

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