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Past Perfect Tense

by | Mar 21, 2020 | English Grammar, Verb Tenses | 0 comments

The past perfect tense is formed by combining the auxiliary verb “had” with the past participle form of the verb. This tense refers to a time earlier than another past action. If you have to make a time distinction between two past events, the past perfect is the tense to use.

How to use the Past perfect tense

past perfect tense

1. Use this tense to say that a past action happened before another past action.


  • I had had a shower before I went to work. (the shower happened earlier)
  • After I had eaten dinner, I went home.

2. It is often used in Reported speech.


  • He said he had seen my girlfriend in the cinema.
  • John said that he had never been to China before.

3. Use it in Type 3. conditional sentences.


  • If I had had enough money, I would have bought that nice coat.
  • I would have told you if I had seen him.

Signal words/Time expressions

Learning the time expressions below will help you rememeber when to use the past perfect tense.

after, when, as soon as, by the time, since, until, already, by, before, for

Past Perfect Tense – Sentence Structures

Affirmative Sentence Structure:

The past perfect is formed with “had” + “past participle. Past participle refers to the form of a verb usually made by adding -ed. It is mostly used in passives and perfect verb tenses, however, it is also formed with irregular verbs.

Subject Auxiliary verb Past Participle Rest of the sentence
I/You/He/She/It/We/You/They had spoken to Jim.

Negative Sentence Structure:

Subject Auxiliary Verb + NOT Past Participle Rest of the sentence
I/You/He/She/It/We/You/They had not spoken to Jim.

Interrogative Sentence Structure:

Auxiliary Verb Subject Verb Rest of the sentence
Had I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they spoken to Jim?


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