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How to Use the Past Perfect Verb Tense for English

Updated: Jan 10, 2022


The Past Perfect Tense represents an action that was completed (finished or "perfected") at some point in the past before something else happened. This tense is formed using the past tense form of "to have" (had) along with the past participle of the verb in either regular or irregular form.


  • I had studied for 3 hours before the exam time.

  • Jane had walked 2 miles before dinner time.

All grammar rules for forming the Past Perfect tense

While making the Past Perfect Tense, we contract the subject (the person or thing that had done the action) and put had in the sentence

  • I had > I’d –

e.g.: After I’d used the book, I thanked my friend.

  • He had > He’d / She has > She’d / It has > It’d – It’d

e.g.: It’d happened so quickly, I didn’t notice.

  • We had > we’d / You have > You’d /They are > They’d –

e.g.: We’d just gotten home when we heard the noise in the park

The Past Perfect tense in the English language has 2 parts which are-

  • The past tense of the verb to have (had)

  • The past participle of the main verb

Subject + had + past participle

e.g.: They had started playing before I reach

Affirmative Sentences

Subject + had + past participle

e.g.: She had given the book

Negative sentences

Subject+ hadn’t+ past participle

e.g.: She hadn’t asked the question

Interrogative Sentence

Had + Subject + past participle

e.g.: Had they arrived?

a) It is used for completed action that something occurred before another action in the past. The tense can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past.


  • I did not have any money because I had lost my wallet.

  • Jimmy had never been to a movie before last night.

b) It is used to represent the duration before something in the Past. It means that something started in the past and continued up until another action in the past.


c) It is used in the reported speech to indicate other people’s thoughts or words


  • Mira told me that she had finished, but I knew she had not.

  • I thought I had repaid him, but I was wrong

d) It is used in if (conditional) sentences to represent unreal or hypothetical situations


  • I wish I had studied for my exams.

  • If I had known that you are coming, I would have met you.

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