Chapter 5-8-7: The Past Perfect / Past Perfect Simple Tense

Grammar > Using Verbs > Verb Tenses > Past Perfect

“I had done my English homework by 6.30 pm last Saturday.”

WHEN TO USE IT: The past perfect (also called the past perfect simple) tense is used to refer to actions that took place and were completed in the past. The past perfect is often used to emphasise that one action, event or condition ended before another past action, event, or condition began.

FORM: [‘had’ + past participle]

Each of the highlighted verbs in the following sentences is in the past perfect.

Miriam arrived at 5:00 p.m. but Mr. Whitaker had closed the store.

All the events in this sentence took place in the past, but the act of closing the store takes place before Miriam arrives at the store.

After we located the restaurant that Christian had raved about, we ate supper there every Friday.

Here the praise ("had raved") precedes the finding ("located") of the restaurant. Both actions took place sometime before the moment of speaking or writing.

The elephant had eaten all the hay so we fed it oats for a week.

In this sentence, both actions take place in the past, but the eating of the hay ("had eaten") preceded the eating of the oats ("fed").

The heat wave had lasted three weeks.

While the sentence "The heat wave has lasted three weeks" suggests that a condition began in the past and continues into the present, this sentence describes an action that began and ended sometime in the past ("had lasted"). By using the past perfect the writer indicates that the heat wave has no connection to any events occurring in the present.

After she had learned to drive, Alice felt more independent.

Here the learning took place and was completed at a specific time in the past. By using the past perfect rather than the simple past ("learned"), the writer emphasises that the learning preceded the feeling of independence.

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