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Practice with the exercises:
Exercise 1

1. The past perfect

The Past Perfect is a verb tense that is mainly used to express an action that occurred before another action in the past.
- Why couldn't you get in your car?
- Because I had left the keys inside.

2. How is the past perfect built?

  • Affirmative form
    Subject AuxiliarY Verb
    (past participle)
    Examples
    I had
    'd
    arrived I had arrived home when you called me.
    You You had arrived home when you called me.
    He He had arrived home when you called me.
    She She had arrived home when you called me.
    It It had arrived home when you called me.
    We We had arrived home when you called me.
    You You had arrived home when you called me.
    They They had arrived home when you called me.
    Remember that to form the past perfect, the main verb has to be in past participle. With regular verbs we will add -ed to the end of the main verb. For irregular verbs we will look at the 3rd column of the list of irregular verbs.
  • Negative form
    Subject AuxiliarY Verb
    (past participle)
    Examples
    I hadn't
    had not
    arrived I hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    You You hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    He He hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    She She hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    It It hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    We We hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    You You hadn't arrived home when you called me.
    They They hadn't arrived home when you called me.
  • Interrogative form
    AuxiliarY Subject Verb
    (past participle)
    Examples
    Had I arrived? Had I arrived home when you called me?
    you Had you arrived home when you called me?
    he Had he arrived home when you called me?
    she Had she arrived home when you called me?
    it Had it arrived home when you called me?
    we Had we arrived home when you called me?
    you Had you arrived home when you called me?
    they Had they arrived home when you called me?

Like the other verb tenses, the interrogative sentences in past perfect also have their own short answers.

Adverb Subject AuxiliarY
Yes, I had
you
he
she
it
we
you
they
Adverb Subject AuxiliarY
No, I hadn't
you
he
she
it
we
you
they
- Had she read the documents before she signed them?
- Yes, she had.

3. How do we use the past perfect?

The past perfect is used for:

  • An action that occurred before another action in the past.
    - So when you got to the party...
    In this example the action we have as reference is the one in the simple past tense, that is, the moment she got to the party.
    - I realized I had forgotten the gift.
    The action of forgetting the gift occurred before arriving at the party.
  • An action that occurred before a particular point in the past.
    The snow had already melted by midday.
    He had never seen the sea before that day.
  • A repeated action that occurred on different occasions until a specific moment in the past.
    - I visited the Louvre again last week.
    - But you had visited it three times already.
    The repeated action is visiting the Louvre, it took place on different occasions before the specific moment in the past (last week).
  • An action that began at a particular point in the past and continued until another point in the past when it ended.
    - Paul sold his car last month because it was old.
    - Yes, He had had it for nearly 20 years.
    He bought at some point in the past and he had it from that point in the past until another point in the past (when he sold it).

Remember!

The Past Perfect tense is mainly used to express actions that occurred before others that took place in the past. It expresses the past of the past.
Form Structure Examples
AFFIRMATIVE Subject + had + verb (past participle) + (complement) He had been there before.
NEGATIVE Subject + had + not + verb (past participle) + (complement) They hadn't eaten anything yet.
INTERROGATIVE Had + subject + verb (past participle) + (complement) Had you ever done bungee jumping?

 

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