The Past Perfect Tense
The past perfect tense is most often used for the following:
- For actions that happened before a past event
- In reported speech
- In if (conditional) sentences
How to form the past perfect | Past perfect continuous
For actions that happened before a past event
When we want to talk about an action that happened before a past event,
we often use the past perfect. Look at these examples:
When I got home yesterday, my father had already cooked dinner.
I didn't want to go to the movies with my friends because I had seen the
My friend offered me an apple in class yesterday, but I wasn't hungry because
I had just eaten lunch.
I arrived very late at the party. All my friends had already gone
- As soon as she had done her homework, she went to bed.
- I was very tired as I hadn't slept well for several days.
- Had you seen the film before?
Notice how often words like already, just, never etc. are used with
the past perfect.
In reported speech
The past perfect is common when we report people's words or thoughts ..,
as in the following examples:
John said that he had never eaten sushi before.
She told me that she had finished, but I knew she had not.
- She wondered why he had been so unkind to her.
He told me he hadn't done his homework, but he was hoping to finish it
on the bus.
- I thought I had sent her a birthday card, but I was wrong.
In if (conditional) sentences
The past perfect tense is used in unreal or hypothetical stituations, as
in the following sentences:
If I had known you were in Frankfurt, I would have called you. (but I didn't
know you were here so I didn't call you!)
If I had had enough money, I would have bought you a better present. (but
I didn't have enough money.)
I would have been very angy if you had laughed when I got the answer wrong.
(but you didn't laugh, so I wasn't angry.)
She wouldn't have been able to finish, if you hadn't helped her. (but you
did help her and she did finish.)
I wish I had studied for my exams. (but I didn't study - and I got bad
I would have been in big trouble if you hadn't helped me. (but you did
help me so I stayed out of trouble.)
Do a quiz on this grammar topic.