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What Is the Past Perfect Tense? (with Examples)The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place.
Examples of the Past Perfect TenseHere are some examples of the past perfect tense (shaded):
- Silverfinger had taken the pill before the team reached him.
(First: He took the pill. Next: The team reached him.)
- I had called the police before I investigated the noise in the garden.
(First: I called the police. Next: I investigated the noise.)
- The weather changed, but the team had planned its next move.
(First: The team planned. Next: The weather changed.)
- Silverfinger had not taken the pill before the team reached him.
- I had not called the police before I investigated the noise in the garden.
- The weather changed, and the team had not planned its next move.
And, the question versions:
- Had Silverfinger taken the pill before the team reached him?
- Had the team planned its next move before the weather changed?
Forming the Past Perfect TenseHere is an infographic explaining the past perfect tense:
Using ContractionsDon't forget that in speech and writing (especially informal writing), you will encounter the following contractions:
- I had > I'd
- You had > You'd
- He had > He'd
- She had > She'd
- It had > It'd
- We had > We'd
- They had > They'd
The Other Past TensesThe past perfect tense is one of four past tenses. They are:
|The 4 Past Tenses||Example|
|simple past tense||I went|
|past progressive tense||I was going|
|past perfect tense||I had gone|
|past perfect progressive tense||I had been going|
Forming the Past Perfect TenseThe past perfect tense is formed:
had + [the past participle]
- I had jumped
- I had met
Forming the Past Participle (Regular Verbs)If it's a regular verb, the past participle is the same as the simple past tense. In other words, it is formed like this:
Add "ed" to most verbs:
- jump > jumped
- paint > painted
If a verb of one syllable ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the final consonant and add "ed":
- chat > chatted
- stop > stopped
If the final consonant is w, x or y, don't double it:
- sew > sewed
- play > played
- fix > fixed
If last syllable of a longer verb is stressed and ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the last consonant and add "ed":
- incur > incurred
- prefer > preferred
If the first syllable of a longer verb is stressed and the verb ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], just add "ed":
- open > opened
- enter > entered
- swallow > swallowed
If the verb ends "e", just add "d":
- thrive > thrived
- guzzle > guzzled
If the verb ends [consonant + "y"], change the "y" to an "i" and add "ed":
- cry > cried
- fry > fried
Forming the Past Participle (Irregular Verbs)If it's an irregular verb, the past participle is formed in all sorts of different ways. Here are some examples:
- arise > arisen
- catch > caught
- choose > chosen
- know > known
You just have to learn them.
Click here for a list of the most common irregular verbs.
Take a longer test on the past perfect tense.
See AlsoTake a test on the past perfect tense Tenses Simple past tense Past progressive tense Past perfect tense
Past perfect progressive tense Simple present tense Present progressive tense Present perfect tense Present perfect progressive tense Simple future tense Future progressive tense Future perfect tense Future perfect progressive tense