Past Perfect Tense | Examples & Exercises
The past perfect tense is a verb form used to refer to a past action that occurred before another past action.
The past perfect is formed using “had” along with the past participle of the main verb (e.g., “I had run”). All verbs in the past perfect tense take this form regardless of the subject (e.g., “she had known”, ”we had known”).
How to use the past perfect
The past perfect tense (also called the pluperfect) is used:
- to describe a past event that occurred prior to another past event
- to talk about time up to a certain point in the past
- in conditional sentences to talk about an unreal past event and its hypothetical consequence
The past perfect is formed using the auxiliary verb “had” along with a past participle.
Present perfect vs past perfect
While both the present perfect and past perfect tenses are used to refer to past actions and events, they serve different purposes:
- The present perfect is used to describe a past action that has present consequences or an action that began in the past and may continue.
- The past perfect is used to describe a past action that occurred before another action (in the past simple tense).
Simple past vs past perfect
Both the simple past tense and past perfect tense are used to describe past action or events. However, they have different functions:
- The past simple is used to indicate that an action or series of actions were completed in the past.
- The past perfect is used to indicate that an action occurred before another past action. Sentences that use the past perfect often have a clause in the simple past to indicate that one past action occurred before another.
How to form negatives
In the past perfect tense, negative statements are formed by adding the adverb “not” after the auxiliary verb “had”. This is often contracted (i.e., “hadn’t”).
How to form questions
To ask a yes–no question using the past perfect, put the auxiliary verb “had” before the subject of the sentence and the past participle of the main verb.
To ask a question with a wh-word (an interrogative adverb like “when” or interrogative pronoun like “what”), follow the same order as above and add the adverb or pronoun at the beginning of the sentence.
Exercises: Past perfect tense
Practice using the past perfect correctly with the exercises below. In the blank space in each sentence, fill in the correct past perfect form based on the subject and verb specified (e.g., “[I / see]” becomes “I had seen”). Some answers may also be negative statements or questions.
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Frequently asked questions about the past perfect tense
- What is the past perfect continuous?
The past perfect continuous is a verb form used to refer to an action that began in the past and continued up until another time in the past.
The past perfect continuous is formed using the auxiliary verbs “had” and “been,” along with the present participle of the main verb (e.g., “I had been working”).
- What is the past perfect form of “go”?
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