Past Perfect Tense
The past perfect, also called the pluperfect, is a verb tense used to talk about actions that were completed before some point in the past.We were shocked to discover that someone had graffitied “Tootles was here” on our front door. We were relieved that Tootles had used washable paint.
The past perfect tense is for talking about something that happened before something else. Imagine waking up one morning and stepping outside to grab the newspaper. On your way back in, you notice a mysterious message scrawled across your front door: Tootles was here. When you’re telling this story to your friends later, how would you describe this moment? You might say something like:
I turned back to the house and saw that some someone named Tootles had defaced my front door!
In addition to feeling indignant on your behalf, your friends will also be able to understand that Tootles graffitied the door at some point in the past before the moment this morning when you saw his handiwork, because you used the past perfect tense to describe the misdeed.
The Past Perfect Formula
The formula for the past perfect tense is had + [past participle]. It doesn’t matter if the subject is singular or plural; the formula doesn’t change.
When to Use the Past Perfect
So what’s the difference between past perfect and simple past? When you’re talking about some point in the past and want to reference an event that happened even earlier, using the past perfect allows you to convey the sequence of the events. It’s also clearer and more specific. Consider the difference between these two sentences:
We were relieved that Tootles used washable paint. We were relieved that Tootles had used washable paint.
It’s a subtle difference, but the first sentence doesn’t tie Tootles’s act of using washable paint to any particular moment in time; readers might interpret it as “We were relieved that Tootles was in the habit of using washable paint.” In the second sentence, the past perfect makes it clear that you’re talking about a specific instance of using washable paint.
Another time to use the past perfect is when you are expressing a condition and a result:
If I had woken up earlier this morning, I would have caught Tootles red-handed.
The past perfect is used in the part of the sentence that explains the condition (the if-clause).
Most often, the reason to write a verb in the past perfect tense is to show that it happened before other actions in the same sentence that are described by verbs in the simple past tense. Writing an entire paragraph with every verb in the past perfect tense is unusual.
When Not to Use the Past Perfect
Don’t use the past perfect when you’re not trying to convey some sequence of events. If your friends asked what you did after you discovered the graffiti, they would be confused if you said:I had cleaned it off the door.
They’d likely be wondering what happened next because using the past perfect implies that your action of cleaning the door occurred before something else happened, but you don’t say what that something else is. The “something else” doesn’t always have to be explicitly mentioned, but context needs to make it clear. In this case there’s no context, so the past perfect doesn’t make sense.
How to Make the Past Perfect Negative
Making the past perfect negative is simple! Just insert not between had and [past participle].
We looked for witnesses, but the neighbors had not seen Tootles in the act. If Tootles had not included his own name in the message, we would have no idea who was behind it.
How to Ask a Question
The formula for asking a question in the past perfect tense is had + [subject] + [past participle].
Had Tootles caused trouble in other neighborhoods before he struck ours?
Common Regular Verbs in the Past Perfect Tense
Common Irregular Verbs in the Past Perfect Tense
Past Perfect Tense (Formula, Examples & Exercise)
- before yesterday
- until that day
Structure / Formula
Subject + had + Past participle (v3)
|He||had||traveled last year.|
|He/she/it /I/we/they||had||Past participle(V3)|
To make the positive sentences, we use this structure,
Subject + had + Past participle (V3)
Examples of positive sentences
- The players had lost heart before the match finished.
- Chris had completed the assignment before he went to school.
We add ‘not’ after auxiliary verb to make the sentence negative.
Subject + had + not + Past participle (V3)
Examples of negative sentences.
- The players had not lost heart before the match finished.
- Chris had not completed the assignment before he went to school.
To make the question, ‘had’ come at the start of the sentence and question mark at the end.
Had + subject + Past participle (V3) + ?
Examples of question sentences.
- Had the players lost heart before the match finished?
- Had Chris completed the assignment before he went to school?
Sentence Structure & Rules
There are three possibilities of writing any sentence or a statement in present continuous tense form,
- Positive statements
[Subject + had + verb (past participle) + object]
- Negative statements
[Subject + had + not + verb (past participle)+ object]
- Question statements
[Wh- type word(if necessary) + had + subject + verb (past participle) + object + ?]
Functions of the past perfect
The past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past. It does not matter which event is mentioned first – the tense makes it clear which one happened first.
In these examples, Event A is the event that happened first and Event B is the second or more recent event:
|Event A||Event B|
|John had gone out||when I arrived in the office.|
|Event A||Event B|
|I had saved my document||before the computer crashed.|
|Event B||Event A|
|When they arrived||we had already started cooking.|
|Event B||Event A|
|He was very tired||because he hadn’t slept well.|
Forming the past perfect
The Past Perfect tense in English is composed of two parts: the past tense of the verb to have (had) + the past participle of the main verb.
To decide, past perfect
|I had decided||I hadn’t decided||Had I decided?|
|You had decided||You hadn’t decided||Had you decided?|
|She had decided||She hadn’t decided||Had she decided?|
|We had decided||We hadn’t decided||Had we decided?|
|They had decided||They hadn’t decided||Had they decided?|
Past perfect + just
‘Just’ is used with the past perfect to refer to an event that was only a short time earlier than before now, e.g.
- The train had just left when I arrived at the station.
- She had just left the room when the police arrived.
- I had just put the washing out when it started to rain.
|1. He had drawn the sketch of a map.|
|2. The match had finished when I reached the stadium.|
|3. Had she lived in this house?|
|4. I had not planted the flowers.|
|5. John had traveled to Venice until last month.|
|6. They had eaten mangoes.|
|7. The hero had not fought with cannibals.|
|8. He had read his favorite book before yesterday.|
|9. The players had lost heart before the match finished.|
|10. I had drafted my plan before I started work.|
Examples of Past Prefect Tense
- You had gone to Mauritius for a business meeting. (positive)
- You hadn’t gone to Mauritius for a business meeting. (negative)
- Had you gone to Mauritius for a business meeting? (question)
- The carpenter had completed the furniture work. (positive)
- The carpenter had not completed the furniture work. (negative)
- Had the carpenter completed the furniture work? (question)
- He had come from the office. (positive)
- He had not come from the office. (negative)
- Why had he come from the office? (question)
- They had finished the snacks. (positive)
- They hadn’t finished the snacks. (negative)
- Why had they finished the snacks? (question)
- The mechanic ________ my bike before I reached the workshop. (fix)
- She _______ the marathon. (win)
- He _______ all his money. (spend)
- The queen _______ the golden crown. (wearr)
- The old sailor _______ many oars. (utilize)
- The student _______ many hours before the exam started. (study)
- The farmer _______ wheat last year. (grow)
- We _________ her yesterday. (visit)
- The patient ________ consciousness before the doctor’s arrival. (regain)
- I ________ my work before you came. (finish)
- The mechanic had fixed my bike before I reached the workshop.
- She had won the marathon.
- He had spent all his money.
- The Queen had worn the golden crown.
- The old sailor had utilized many oars.
- The student had studied many hours before the exam started.
- The farmer had grown wheat last year.
- We had visited her yesterday. (visit)
- The patient had regained consciousness before the doctor’s arrival.
- I had finished my work before you came.
Exercise of Past Perfect Tense
Complete the following sentence using the appropriate verbs to make it a past perfect tense statement.
(perform, announce, prepare, come, do, imagine, submit, tell, complete, jump, go, rescue, explain, leave, study)
- I _____never ___ that you did that school.
- She __________ anywhere to buy clothes. (not)
- He _______well in the practice session of the football match.
- _____he_____ the project documents?
- Marla and Andrew _____ their marriage yet officially. (not)
- The train ______ already at the station by the time before I reached there.
- Why _______ you back from London?
- He ______ from the airplane with the parachute.
- I had never done that you did that school.
- She had not gone anywhere to buy clothes.
- He had performed well in the practice session of the football match.
- Had he submitted the project documents?
- Marla and Andrew had announced their marriage yet officially.
- The train had left already at the station by the time before I reached there.
- Why had come you back from London?
- He had jumped from the airplane with the parachute.
Exercise of Past Perfect Tense
Write down the correct form of the verb given in the bracket to make a sentence into the Past Perfect Tense.
- She _________ a novel on humanity. (write)
- He ________ his homework yesterday. (do)
- They _________ a bad man very badly on the road. (beat)
- You ____ already _______the rules of our organization. (read)
- She had ______ a beautiful dress at the party. (wear)
- John __________ to the wedding ceremony. (come)
- ____the snake _______ on his leg? (bite)
- He __________ any cash amount to the dealer. (not/pay)
- They ____ already ______ a knife to the boy to cut fruits. (give)
- We _________ any game from yesterday. (not/play)
- The car _________ far away in the tornado. (blow)
- She _________ her pup[py on the road. (not/leave)
- The cloth ________ high on the sky. (fly)
- ______ you _______ about that company before? (hear)
- I ________ that file on your table yesterday. (keep)
Past Perfect Tense with Answer
- She had written a novel on humanity.
- He had done his homework yesterday.
- They had beaten a bad man very badly on the road.
- You had already read the rules of our organization.
- She had worn a beautiful dress at the party.
- John had come to the wedding ceremony.
- had the snake-bitten on his leg?
- He hadn’t paid any cash amount to the dealer.
- They had already given a knife to the boy to cut fruits.
- We hadn’t played any game from yesterday.
- The car had blown far away in the tornado.
- She hadn’t left her pup[py on the road.
- The cloth had flown high on the sky.
- had you heard about that company before?
- I had kept that file on your table yesterday.
Past Perfect Tense Examples (30 Sentences)
- He said that he had seen him at the railway station last Tuesday.
- The manager had achieved the target until the last quarter.
- She had mopped the floor when I got home.
- The match had finished when I switched on the TV.
- I had never tasted such delicious ice-cream before.
- The train had left before I reached the station.
- We had taken dinner before the storm came.
- He had not heard that news till yesterday.
- I had never seen such a beautiful scene before.
- She had already finished her work before her friend came.
- She said that her friend had betrayed her.
- He said that he had seen him at the hill station.
- I had already answered the mail before the boss came.
- The building had burned down before the fire brigade arrived.
- He had already bought the tickets before the match began.
- He had already sold the horse before I received the information.
- I had reached there before the rain started.
- The patient had recovered until last week.
- I had completed my graduation before I got a job.
- The victim of the accident had breathed his last before he reached the hospital.
- He had just left when I called at his house.
- It transpired that he had not done anything till yesterday.
- The rain had stopped before I reached home.
- The farmer had reaped the harvest before the storm came.
- She said that she had participated in the contest last year.
- The student had completed the assignment before the teacher came.
- When he reached the party, all his friends had already gone home.
- Tom and Sara had been married for seven years when they divorced.
- He had broken his leg in a car accident.
- What had he done to protect himself from the virus?
Examples of Past Perfect Tense
The following are more examples of past perfect tense in sentences. The past perfect tense is underlined in each sentence.
- I had never seen such a beautiful sunset before I went to the island.
- We were not able to stay overnight at the hotel since we had not reserved a room in advance.
- She had never been to the symphony before last night.
- Marc knew Philadelphia so well because he had lived there for five years.
- He understood the math test because he had been tutored all week.
- I did not have any cash because I had lost my purse.
- I had been to Mexico once before.
- If I had seen him, I would have told him the news.
- Before he did his homework, he had stayed after school for help.
- She had lived in California before moving to Texas.
- The cat had chased the bird before it flew out of the yard.
- We had just called home when my mom texted us about returning the car.
- She had visited several doctors before she found out what the problem was with her hand.
- If we had called ahead, we would not have needed to wait so long for a table.
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