Any action or an event that started in the recent past and express idea of completion or occurence, in relation to another event, without an exact time of its completion is in the past perfect tense.
Past perfect is also used for actions completed in the recent past, not a very long time ago.
The past perfect tense form of a verb has two parts:
- The past tense form of ‘to be’ – known as helping verb or auxillary verb
- Past participle form of the main verb.
The structure of the sentence:
Subject + helping verb + main verb + object
subject+ had + main verb (in past participle form) + object
Example: Farah had completed her homework.
In case of two events one happening after the other:
Subject + helping verb + (event 1) main verb (past participle form) + link + object + (event 2) main verb (in simple past form)
Example: The sun had set before the party started.
Note that here two events are described
Event 1: The sun set (in past perfect tense)
Event 2: The party began (in simple past tense)
Linking these events: before
Helping verb + subject + main verb + object
Have/has + subject + participle form of main verb + object
Example: Had Farah completed her homework?
Subject + helping verb + NOT – main verb + object
Subject + had NOT + participle form of main verb = object
Example: Farah had not completed her homework.
Previous knowledge about past perfect tense:
At the end of this chapter, all learners will be able to
- Use auxiliary (helping) verbs with the past participle form of the base verb.
- Distinguish between usage of simple past and past perfect forms of verbs.
- Use verbs in past perfect tense in affirmative, interrogative and negative sentences.
- Arrange the words in the proper order to form good sentence structure.
The paragraph given below describes Madhavi’s experieces at a mall. The actions in this paragraph relate to two events that had taken place one before the other, but at a time in the past. Read carefully and note the usage of past perfect tense in the passage.
Last weekend, Madhavi and her friends had been to the newly opened mall. They all had finished their work before they went. They had never been to this mall before. Each time they had planned, some other work came up. They had to cancel their plans. They had never imagined that a get-together and outing of this kind would be so much fun. Madhavi and Roopali had already selected a beautiful dress to buy. They liked this dress as soon as they had entered the mall. Amit and Jay had agreed to buy pizzas for all of them. They had ordered for fresh, cheezy pizzas, even before the others finished their shopping. By the time they left the mall, they had seen amazing displays in each of the shops. They were exhausted because they had walked through the complete mall. No body they knew had been to the new mall till that day. They felt lucky.
Past perfect tense is used
- When we mention two events happened sometime in the past, one before the other. The earlier action is in the past perfect tense form while the later action is in simple past.
Example: They had ordered for fresh, cheezy pizzas, even before the others finished their shopping. They were exhausted because they had walked through the complete mall.
In both the above sentences, there are two distinct actions taking place, both in the past – ordering the pizza and walking through the mall happened before finishing shopping and feeling exhausted. So, actions that took place first – are in the past perfect tense and the actions that took place later are in simple past tense.
- When there is a mention of an action completed in the past.
Example: Last weekend, Madhavi and her friends had been to the newly opened mall. They had never been to this mall before.
In both these examples, there is a mention of some action that took place some time in the past – words like last weekend, before are an indication of completion of the action.
Let’s look at these sentences:
Hasini arrived at 08.45 am. Pawan left at 08.20 am.
Here, there are two events, Hasini arrived and Pawan left, but according to the given time, the first event is Pawan left, the second event is Hasini arrived. The event that took place first is in the past perfect tense and the later event is in the simple past tense.
Pawan had (already) left, before Hasini arrived.
Let’s take one more example where there is onve one evident action
I had lost my grammar notebook (some time before this conversation)
Here, there is only one evident event, i.e. losing of the earphones and this was some unspecified time much before the time of mentioning about the event.
before, when, as soon as, the moment that, until before, when, by the time
Exercise: FIl in the blanks with the correct form of verb given in the bracket.
Interrogative and Negative sentences in present perfect tense
Exercise: Change to interrogative sentences
Exercises: Change to negative sentences
Simple past, past continuous, past perfect: Differences
- Choose the correct form of the verb.
- Arrange the words to form proper sentences.