Past Perfect

Intermediate

What is the past perfect?

  • The past perfect is a verb tense that we use to talk about an action that happened before another action (or a specific time) in the past.

    • I had been to Japan before I became a teacher.

    • I had heard that song so many times that I became sick of it.

  • To make a sentence in the past perfect, we use this format

    • Subject + had + past participle

    • Sarah had left.

  • To make a past perfect sentence negative we add “not”

    • Subject + had + not + past participle

    • Sarah had not left. OR Sarah hadn’t left.

How do we use the past perfect?

  • Often we use the past perfect with another verb tense (like the simple past) or with an expression of time. This is because with the past perfect we are talking about TWO events that happened in the past or about TWO different times (both in the past). The past perfect describes what happened first.

    • Had you seen the movie (past perfect) before you read the book (past simple)?

    • I’d seen the movie (past perfect) several times but I had read the book too (past perfect).

    • I hadn’t seen the movie (past perfect) before last night (time expression – no verb tense).

One more thing

  • We may use time expressions like already, before, just, and when with the past perfect

    • John had already been to France, but he decided to return.

    • Jason had met his boyfriend once before they started dating.

    • Sally had just gotten a promotion when she called me.

Activity

I. Fill in the blanks with the correct verb tense

  • Before Lucy _______________ a university professor she __________________ for many years (become; study).

  • Jill ____________________ music for many years when she finally ____________ her first album (play; record)

  • The phone ________   just   ___________ when I _____________ a noise at the door (ring; hear).
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