What Is the Past Perfect Tense? (with Examples)
Past Perfect TenseThe past perfect tense describes a completed activity in the past. It is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another action took place. For example:
- John had baked a cake before you arrived.
- They had painted the fence before I had a chance to speak to them.
A Video SummaryHere is a short video summarizing the past perfect tense:
Infographic for the Past Perfect TenseHere is an infographic explaining the past perfect tense:
More Examples of the Past Perfect TenseHere are some more 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.)
Forming the Past Perfect TenseThe past perfect tense is formed:
- 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.
Read more about irregular verbs (includes a list of the most common irregular verbs).
The Negative VersionIf you need the negative version, you can use the following construction:
- 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.
The Question VersionIf you need to ask a question, you can use the following word order for a yes/no question:
- Had Silverfinger taken the pill before the team reached him?
- Had the team planned its next move before the weather changed?
- Why had Silverfinger taken the pill before the team reached him?
- Where had the team planned its next move before the weather changed?
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
Read more about contractions.
Verb Tense WidgetUse this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!
The Other Past TensesThe past perfect tense is one of four past tenses. This table shows all four of the past tenses:
|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|