The Past Perfect

The past perfect tense is used to talk about an action or event that happened before something else in the past. This is one of the storytelling tenses in English, and part of what makes English so rich and beautiful.

 

Read on for tips about how to form this tense, or

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Past Perfect Affirmative

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Past Perfect Negative

The past perfect affirmative is formed using "had" and the past participle (second form) of the verb.

  • Examples:
    • When I arrived at work, I realized I had forgotten my purse.
    • Before leaving on vacation, they had cleaned their entire apartment.

The past perfect negative is formed by adding "not" after "had." This can be contracted into "hadn't."

  • Examples:
    • Before he visited Russia, Jimmy hadn't realized just how cold it would be.
    • Luisa hadn't studied as much as she should have, so she didn't do well on the test.

Past Perfect Questions

Yes/no questions in the past perfect are formed by moving "had" to the beginning of the sentence.

  • Examples:
    • Had you expected this many people to come to your party?
    • Had I made a wrong turn and gotten lost?

Wh-questions in the past perfect are formed by adding the wh-word at the beginning of the sentence. The rules for yes/no questions still apply.

  • Examples:
    • Where had they gotten all of the balloons? The room was absolutely stuffed with them.
    • How long had you worked there before you decided to switch jobs?