Verb Tenses: The Past Perfect

PAST PERFECT

Past perfect, form

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.

Subject had past participle

We

had

decided...

Affirmative

She

had

given.

Negative    

We

hadn't

asked.

Interrogative    

Had

they

arrived?

Interrogative negative

Hadn't

you

finished?

Example: to decide, Past perfect

Affirmative

Negative

Interrogative

I had decided

I hadn't decided

Had I decided?

You had decided

You hadn't decided

Had you decided?

He, she, it had decided

He hadn't decided

Had she decided?

We had decided

We hadn't decided

Had we decided?

You had decided

You hadn't decided

Had you decided?

They had decided

They hadn't decided

Had they decided?

 

Past perfect, function

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 first or earliest event, Event B is the second or latest event:

Event B Event B
a. John had gone out when I arrived in the office.
Event A Event B
b. I had saved my document before the computer crashed.
Event A
c. When they arrived we had already started cooking
Event B Event A
d. He was very tired because he hadn't slept well.
Event B Event A

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.









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