Contents:


Form

The past perfect tense is formed with the past tense form of “have” and the past participle of the main verb.

Affirmative sentences 

Full form:

subject + “had” + past participle of verb

Contracted form:

pronoun + “-‘d” + past participle of verb

  • “I‘d had enough to eat by the time my date arrived.”
  • “She‘d finished the cookies before I could have some.”

* Please note: “I had” has the same contraction, “I’d.” To avoid confusion, remember that “would” is followed by the base form of the verb and “had” is followed by the past participle form.

Negative sentences 

Full form:

subject + “had not” + past participle of verb

Contracted form:

subject + “hadn’t” + past participle of verb

  • “I looked through the crowd and realised he hadn’t arrived yet.”
  • “They hadn’t completed the renovations by the time we returned from our holiday.”

Questions 

Full form:

had” + subject + past participle of verb

question word + “had” + subject + past participle of verb

  • Had he given much thought to the surgery?”
  • How long had she worked in the retail industry before this job?”

* Please note: Questions in the past perfect are not that common in everyday English. Native speakers will often use other tenses and idiomatic phrases to ask the same thing.

Negative questions

It is possible to make negative questions even though their uses are quite specific. [See also: Negative questions]

The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. Contracted forms are preferred in general.

Contracted form:

hadn’t” + subject + past participle of verb

question word + “hadn’t” + subject + past participle of verb

Full form:

had” + subject + “not” + past participle of verb

question word + “had” + subject + “not” + past participle of verb

  • Hadn’t he given much thought to the surgery?”
  • Why had she not worked in the retail industry before this job?”

Timeline

For this tense, it is useful for ask, “Until this point, what happened?

Here, the timeline starts some time in the past until a specific time in the past.

Within this timeline, there might be an event that happened before another event.

Or maybe three.

Or refer to the extended period before a specific time or event in the past.


Uses of the Past perfect tense

1.   To refer to previous experiences that happened before a certain point in the past.

Usually the “certain point” is specified or referred to.

  • “We‘d tried the steak here before they changed chefs.”
  • “She‘d never seen Star Wars until we met.”
2.   To refer to past statements or assumptions about the past.
a. In reported/indirect speech.

Past:“I drove to work this morning.”
Present:“He said he had driven to work this morning.”

b. With cognitive and perception verbs.
  • “I thought you had forgotten to buy a gift for mum.”
  • “I heard he‘d tried to apply for a job but was rejected.”
3.   To refer to changed states, when the change occurred at some point in the past.
  • “I decided to study accounting in university but I had wanted to be a teacher in secondary school.”
  • “We had planned to go to Perth but the lockdown happened.”
4.   With “if” – In conditional sentences when a different past is imagined.
  • If I had been there earlier, I would have seen you before you left.”
  • “I would have given her a call if I had known she was sick.”

Original post: 18 November 2020

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