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Past Perfect Tense

What is the past perfect tense? How do we use past perfect tense? How to use past perfect tense?

The Past Perfect Tense


1) We use the past perfect to show clearly that one past event happened before another past event. We use the past perfect for the earlier event.

When I arrived at the party, Tom wasn’t there. He had gone home. (=Tom went home at 10.00, I arrived at 11.00.)

2) The past perfect is formed with the auxiliary verb had and the past participle (third column in the list of irregular verbs). Questions are formed by inverting the subject and had. Negatives are formed with not. Contracted forms are used.

(?) Had Kate gone to bed when you arrived home?
(+) Yes, she had. She had gone to bed when I arrived home./She’d gone to bed.
(-) No, she hadn’t. She hadn’t gone to bed when I arrived home.

The past perfect (I had done) is the past of the present perfect (I have done). Compare these situations:


-I’m not hungry. I’ve just had breakfast.

-Your room is dirty. You haven’t cleaned it for months.

-I wasn’t hungry. I’d just had breakfast.

-Your room was dirty. You hadn’t cleaned it for months.

The past perfect is often used with verbs of thinking like to think, know, be sure, realize, remember, suspect, understand etc.

Sue was sure she hadn’t locked the door.
When I got home I realized I’d left my computer at Starbucks.

Note that it is not necessary to use the past perfect if we use before or after to make the time sentence clear, although many speakers do so to show a strong connection between the two events.

Pam left her house before her parents arrived. OR Pam had left her house before her parents arrived.

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