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Old Tuesday, August 21, 2007
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Sureshlasi Sureshlasi is offline
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Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is quite an easy tense to understand and to use. This tense talks about the "past in the past".

How do we make the Past Perfect Tense?

The structure of the past perfect tense is:

subject + auxiliary verb HAVE + main verb (Past Participle or V3)
For negative sentences in the past perfect tense, we insert not between the auxiliary verb and main verb. For question sentences, we exchange the subject and auxiliary verb. Look at these example sentences with the past perfect tense:

subject _______ auxiliary verb _________ main verb

+ _____ I _____________ had _______________ finished my work.
+ _____You ___________ had _______________ stopped before me.
- _____She __________ had not ______________ gone to school.
- _____ We __________ had not _________________ left.
? ____ Had you _____________________________ arrived?
? ____ Had they ___________________________ eaten dinner?

When speaking with the past perfect tense, we often contract the subject and auxiliary verb:

I had ___ I'd
you had ___ you'd
he had ___ he'd
she had ___ she'd
it had ___ it'd
we had ___ we'd
they had ___ they'd

The 'd contraction is also used for the auxiliary verb would. For example, we'd can mean:
We had

We would
But usually the main verb is in a different form, for example:
We had arrived (past participle)
We would arrive (base)
It is always clear from the context.

How do we use the Past Perfect Tense?

The past perfect tense expresses action in the past before another action in the past. This is the past in the past. For example:

  • The train left at 9am. We arrived at 9.15am. When we arrived, the train had left.

The train had left when we arrived.
(like Train leaves in past at 9am and We arrive in past at 9.15am.)

Look at some more examples:

I wasn't hungry. I had just eaten.
They were hungry. They had not eaten for five hours.
I didn't know who he was. I had never seen him before.
"Mary wasn't at home when I arrived."
"Really? Where had she gone?"

You can sometimes think of the past perfect tense like the present perfect tense, but instead of the time being now the time is past.

For example, imagine that you arrive at the station at 9.15am. The stationmaster says to you:

"You are too late. The train has left."

Later, you tell your friends:

"We were too late. The train had left."

We often use the past perfect tense in reported speech after verbs like said, told, asked, thought, wondered:

Look at these examples:

He told us that the train had left.
I thought I had met her before, but I was wrong.
He explained that he had closed the window because of the rain.
I wondered if I had been there before.
I asked them why they had not finished.

to be continued (Past Perfect Continous Tense)
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