Past Perfect Tense

What's the difference between the following sentences?

Past Perfect Tense Past Perfect Tense

Create learning materials about Past Perfect Tense with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Contents
Table of contents

    "She watched a movie."

    "She had watched that movie three times in a week."

    The first sentence is written using the past simple tense, whereas the second is written using the past perfect tense. These are two of the four past tenses in English; the other two are past continuous and past perfect continuous. Today, we'll be learning all about the past perfect tense.

    Past Perfect Tense Definition

    The past perfect tense (also known as the pluperfect tense) is one of four past tenses in English grammar. Check out the definition below:

    The past perfect tense is a verb tense that refers to something in the past that occurred before another past event.

    An example of the past perfect tense is:

    "Before he arrived home, Steven had walked to the supermarket to buy some vegetables."

    This sentence shows an event that occurred in the past (buying vegetables) before another event (arriving home).

    Past Perfect Tense Rules

    It is important to know how the past perfect tense is formed, as this will help you not only construct past perfect sentences but also differentiate between the different past tenses.

    To create the past perfect tense, use the past tense of the verb "to have" (had) and the past participle of the main verb. The past participle is an important part of creating the past perfect tense, so let's take a look at it in more detail!

    Past Participles

    A past participle is a verb form that can function as either a verb or an adjective in a sentence. When a past participle functions as a verb, it is used to create perfect tenses (such as past, present, and future perfect). When it functions as an adjective, it is used to modify a noun/pronoun.

    With regular verbs, the past participle is made by adding "ed" or "d" to the end of a verb. For example, the past participle of "talk" is "talked." However, some verbs are irregular, meaning they do not follow the same rule as regular verbs. For example, the past participle of "eat" is not "eated" but "eaten."

    To help learn irregular verbs, we can think of them as having three forms:

    Verb 1: Root (the base form found in the dictionary)

    Verb 2: Past simple

    Verb 3: Past participle

    For example:

    RootPast simplePast participle
    DrinkDrankDrunk
    BeginBeganBegun
    FallFellFallen
    MeetMetMet
    SitSatSat
    RunRanRun

    Past Perfect Tense Image of time StudySmarterFig. 1 - The past perfect tense always uses the verb "had" to refer to a past event.

    Past Perfect Tense Examples

    It is worth mentioning that the past perfect tense can be used for any sentence type (simple, compound, complex and compound-complex). For example:

    A simple sentence in the past perfect tense:

    "She had danced in the theatre show."

    A compound sentence in the past perfect tense:

    "I had preferred the pink walls, but my brother had preferred the blue window."

    A compound sentence combines two independent clauses, usually connected with a conjunction and a comma.

    A complex sentence in the past perfect tense:

    "Kelly had passed her exam, so she got into college."

    A complex sentence combines a dependent and an independent clause.

    A compound-complex sentence in the past perfect tense:

    "Although Freddie wanted to go swimming, he had caught a cold, so he stayed at home instead.

    A compound-complex sentence contains two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

    Check out some more examples of the past perfect tense below:

    Past Perfect Sentence Examples
    "By the time he got to the cafe, his friend had already left."
    "Freya had worked as a store manager for ten years."
    "We had started the party preparations a month in advance."
    "He had never seen fireworks before last night."
    "I came back home as I had left my bag in my room."
    "I had lived in London before I moved to Berlin."

    Past Perfect Continuous Tense

    The past perfect continuous tense (also known as past perfect progressive) is a tense used to refer to something that began in the past and continued up to another point in the past.

    The past perfect continuous tense is formed by using the past perfect form of the verb "to be" and the present participle of the main verb.

    In case you need reminding:

    • The past perfect of "to be" is "had been."

    • The present participle consists of the main verb base plus the suffix "ing" (added to the end of the base). For example, the present participle of "speak" is "speaking."

    A few examples of the past perfect continuous tense are as follows:

    "She had been soundly sleeping before she was rudely awoken."

    "I had been enjoying my time alone when I heard a knock at the door."

    "We realized that we had been worrying for no reason, as everything turned out fine in the end."

    Difference Between Past Perfect and Present Perfect

    The past perfect tense is used to talk about an event that happened prior to another event in the past, whereas the present perfect is used when referring to something that began in the past but has relevance in the present.

    To make the past perfect tense, use the past tense of the verb "to have" (had) and the past participle of the main verb. On the other hand, to make the present perfect tense, use the present tense of the verb "to have" (have/has) and the past participle of the main verb.

    Past Perfect Tense Person on laptop StudySmarterFig. 2 - "He had finished his homework" is past perfect, whereas "he has finished his homework" is present perfect.

    Here are some examples comparing the past simple tense with past perfect and present perfect:

    Past Simple TensePast Perfect TensePresent Perfect Tense
    I painted a picture of my cat.I had painted a picture of my cat.I have painted a picture of my cat.
    Sharon played tennis every week.Sharon had played tennis every week.Sharon has played tennis every week.
    Paul exercised before school.Paul had exercised before school.Paul has exercised before school.
    He moved into a bigger houseHe had moved into a bigger house.He has moved into a bigger house.
    She left the building.She had already left the building.She has already left the building.

    Notice how the past simple does not need to use a form of "to have," whereas the past perfect uses "had" and the present perfect uses "have/has."

    Past Perfect Tense - Key takeaways

    • The past perfect tense is a verb tense used to refer to something that happened before another event in the past.
    • The past perfect is formed by using the past tense of "to have" (had) and the past participle of the main verb.
    • The past perfect is one of four past tenses in English. The others are past simple, past continuous, and past perfect continuous.
    • The present perfect is used when referring to something that began in the past but has relevance in the present, whereas the past perfect is used to talk about an event in the past that happened prior to another event in the past.
    • The past perfect continuous refers to an event that started in the past and carried on up to another time in the past.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Past Perfect Tense

    What is the difference between the past tense and the past perfect tense?

    The past (simple) tense is used to talk about a completed event that happened in the past, whereas the past perfect tense is used to talk about an event that happened prior to another event in the past.

    What is the past perfect tense?

    The past perfect tense is a verb tense used to refer to something that happened before another thing in the past.

    Why is it called past perfect tense?

    It is called the past perfect tense as it combines the past tense with the perfective (completed) aspect.

    What are the uses of the past perfect tense?

    The past perfect tense is used to talk about a past event that happened before another past event. We can use this tense to draw attention to the order of events.

    What is the formula of the past perfect tense?

    The past perfect tense is formed by using the past tense of the verb 'to have' and the past participle of the main verb.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or false?The past perfect tense talks about an event that occurred after another event in the past.

    The past perfect tense is used to talk about a past event that...

    True or false?The past perfect uses the verb "has."

    Next
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Past Perfect Tense Teachers

    • 7 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App