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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…
She had given.
We hadn’t asked.
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:


John had gone out

when I arrived in the office.

Event A

Event B


I had saved my document

before the computer crashed.

Event A

Event B

When they arrived
we had already started cooking
Event B
Event A
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.

a. The train had just left when I arrived at the station.
b. She had just left the room when the police arrived.
c. I had just put the washing out when it started to rain.


June 13, 2008 - Posted by | Learn English - Tenses

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