Past Perfect Tense

Labels: ,
The Past Perfect tense is used to refer to a non-continuous action in the past, which was already completed by the time another action in the past took place. In the following examples, the verbs in the Past Perfect tense are underlined.
e.g. She had heard the news before I saw her.
I had finished my work by the time the clock struck twelve.

In the preceding examples, the verbs had heard and had finished are in the Past Perfect tense, and the verbs saw and struck are in the Simple Past. The use of the Past Perfect tense indicates that the actions of hearing the news and finishing the work were already completed by the time the actions expressed by the verbs in the Simple Past took place.

The structure of the past perfect tense is:

subject+auxiliary verb HAVE+main verb

conjugated in simple past tense
past participle

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:

subjectauxiliary verb
main verb
finishedmy work.
stoppedbefore me.
-Shehadnotgoneto school.

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

I hadI'd
you hadyou'd
he had
she had
it had
we hadwe'd
they hadthey'd

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.
Train leaves in past at 9am.


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.

past perfect tense
present perfect tense
had |
done |
> |

have |
done |
> |


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.

Post a Comment

English Grammar Learning Center


Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    The Author

    My photo
    21 years old University student, majoring in English

    Powered by