Past Perfect Tense – Examples

We know there are three tenses in English grammar, namely the past tense, present tense, and future tense. Each of these tenses has four different aspects that describe actions in relation to their time of occurrence in different forms. In this post, we will focus on one such aspect of the past tense, the past perfect tense.

Past tense is a type of tense that denotes actions that happened in the past. Similarly, the past perfect tense has something to do with actions occurring in the past but with a different twist. In a very general sense, the past perfect tense indicates an activity that happened in the past before something else.

They seem easy to understand, but there are certain rules that we cannot avoid while forming one. So, let us have a look at them and gain a better understanding.

What is past perfect tense?

The past perfect tense is a type of tense that talks about the past in the past. In a simple sense, it is a verb tense used to denote an activity that finished before some point in the past. Here, it emphasizes the fact that an action was completed in the past before another activity occurred.

It does not really matter which activity occurred first. The tense will make the point valid anyway, but the key point is that it expresses or talks about actions that finished before a particular point in the past. Hence, they are also referred to as the pluperfect tense.


The formula for the past perfect tense is very simple and straightforward. It mainly consists of the auxiliary verb have in the past simple form and the main verb in the past participle form.

So, the structure of a past perfect tense will contain the verb have in the past form, had. And then, it is followed by the past participle form of the main verb. This means the regular verbs will end with –d or –ed. However, in the case of irregular verbs, we apply their own unique past participle forms.

Also, it is important to note that this formula remains constant for both singular and plural subjects.

For example:

  • He had arrived at the party before the guests came.
  • They had gone out when I reached.
  • She had given all the documents to you before the class got over.

Likewise, the past perfect can also form negative and question sentences.

For a negative sentence, we use “not” after the verb “have”. After that, the main verb follows. For example;

The movie hadn’t started when we reached.

For the question sentence, we simply have to change the position of the verb have and place it in the beginning. After that, the subject and other elements follow.

Had they reached before the game started?


Now that we know how to use the past perfect tense, let us try to understand when they are used.

We mainly use the past perfect tense to denote an action that occurred before another took place.

  • The show had started before we reached.
  • I had transferred the file before returning the laptop.

We always use time expressions, such as before, when, etc.

It is important to make proper and correct use of past perfect tense because many people tend to overuse them. Make sure you are using past perfect only to indicate actions that occurred before the main action.

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