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The Past Perfect Tense

Perfect English Grammar

The Past Perfect Tense

We don't use the past perfect a lot in English, but it is useful, and it sounds very good if you can use it correctly. Also, it's really easy to make - just the past simple of 'have' and the past participle.

Click here to download this explanation as a pdf.

Learn about USING the past perfect here.

The positive - make it with 'had' + the past participle (usually made by adding 'ed' to the infinitive, but a few verbs have irregular past participles):

(Also, here's some help if you are not sure how to pronounce '-ed' at the end of a verb).

  • I had been (I'd been)
  • You had gone (you'd gone)
  • She had met (she'd met)
  • He had played (he'd played)
  • It had rained (it'd rained)
  • We had bought (we'd bought)
  • They had studied (they'd studied)

The short form for 'had' is 'd.
(Be careful not to confuse it with 'would'. Would is followed by the infinitive - 'I'd go', whereas had is followed by the past participle - 'I'd gone').

For the negative just add 'not':

  • I had not been (I hadn't been)
  • You had not gone (you hadn't gone)
  • She had not met (she hadn't met)
  • He had not played (he hadn't played)
  • It had not rained (it hadn't rained)
  • We had not bought (we hadn't bought)
  • They had not studied (they hadn't studied)

Here's a exercise about the positive and negative forms.

And to make a 'yes / no' question put 'had' before the subject:

  • Had I come?
  • Had you eaten?
  • Had she gone?
  • Had it rained?
  • Had he studied?
  • Had we met?
  • Had they left?

For 'wh' questions put the question word at the beginning:

  • When had I come?
  • Why had you eaten?
  • Where had she gone?
  • When had it rained?
  • Why had he studied?
  • How had we met?
  • When had they left?

Finally here's an exercise about past perfect questions.

Learn about USING the past perfect here