Past Perfect Tense - Explore Meaning, Definition, Formula, Structure and Uses with Examples

You would have definitely learnt how to use the simple past tense and the past continuous tense to speak about the actions that happened or were taking place in the past. Well, there is another tense called the past perfect tense which allows you to compare and contrast different actions, times and events in the past. In this article, you will learn everything about the past perfect tense, its meaning, definition, structure, formula and uses along with examples to help you understand well. Check out the topics given below to have an in-depth analysis of the same.

Table of Contents

What is the Past Perfect Tense?

The past perfect tense is slightly different in its structure and use in a sentence from the simple past tense and the past continuous tense. The past perfect tense clearly states that one action took place before another action in the past. It can also be said that the past perfect tense represents a past action that took place in the past. Now, take a look at the definitions of the past perfect tense given by various dictionaries.

Definition of the Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “ the form of a verb that is used to show that an action had already finished when another action happened.” The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines the past perfect tense as “the form of a verb that expresses an action completed before a particular point in the past, formed in English with had and the past participle.”

Another definition of the past perfect tense given by the Merriam Webster Dictionary is as follows. According to it, the past perfect tense is “ the form of the verb that is used in referring to an action that was completed by a particular time in the past.” The Collins Dictionary puts it a little differently. According to it, the past perfect tense is “a tense indicating an action as completed or a state as having ended before a specified or implied time in the past,” and they also call the tense with another term – ‘pluperfect.’

Structure and Formula of the Past Perfect Tense

Learning the structure and formula of the past perfect tense will help you in a way that you don’t expect. Obviously, anything becomes easy once you know what it is, right? So, here is the formula of the past perfect tense.

Subject + had + past participle + the rest of the sentence

The structure of the past perfect tense can be learnt by analyisng how it is used in a positive, negative, interrogative and negative interrogative sentence.

Structure of the Past Perfect Tense

Positive

Negative

Interrogative

Negative Interrogative

Subject + had + past participle + the rest of the sentence

Subject + had + not + past participle + the rest of the sentence

Had + subject + past participle + the rest of the sentence

Had + subject + not + past participle + the rest of the sentence

(or)

Hadn’t + subject + past participle + the rest of the sentence

Examples:

  • I had completed my assignment before everyone else even started.
  • You had completed your assignment before everyone else even started.
  • He had completed his assignment before everyone else even started.
  • She had completed her assignment before everyone else even started.
  • They had completed their assignment before everyone else even started.

Examples:

  • I had not completed my assignment.
  • You had not completed your assignment.
  • He had not completed his assignment.
  • She had not completed her assignment.
  • They had not completed their assignment..

Examples:

  • Had I completed my assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had you completed your assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had he completed his assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had she completed her assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had they completed their assignment before everyone else even started?

Examples:

  • Hadn’t I completed my assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Hadn’t you completed your assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Hadn’t he completed his assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Hadn’t she completed her assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Hadn’t they completed their assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had you not finished your assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had she not finished her assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had he not finished his assignment before everyone else even started?
  • Had they not finished their assignment before everyone else even started?

Using the Past Perfect Tense – Points to Remember

The past perfect tense is similar to the present perfect tense in its structure. Like the present perfect tense, the past perfect tense also employs a helping verb (had) and the past participle of the main verb. The only difference is that the past perfect tense uses the same helping verb ‘had’ irrespective of the first, second or third pronoun being used as the subject. Past participles of regular verbs are usually the same as the past form, whereas most irregular verbs take different spellings when used in the past form and the past participle form. If you know the past participles correctly, you will not find any difficulty with understanding or employing the past perfect tense in your writing and speech.

Check out the article on irregular verbs if you need to just brush up your knowledge of how the verbs form their past and past participle forms.

Uses of the Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense can be used to provide information about the following scenarios:

  • To indicate the order of more than one past event.
  • To denote the time until a certain point in the past.
  • To inform that an action was incomplete and not done at a specific time in the past when a simple past action took place.

Examples of the Past Perfect Tense

Given below are a few examples to show you how the past perfect tense can be used to perform the different functions discussed above.

Indicating the order of events in the past

Example 1:

  • When my mom arrived, my friends had left.

It can also be written as follows,

  • My friends had left when my mom arrived.

Example 2:

  • The train had arrived on the second platform when we reached the station. (or)
  • When we reached the station, the train had arrived on the second platform.

Denoting the time until a specific point in the past

Examples:

  • Ann had completed all eight grades of western music by the time she was 15 years old.
  • Had Brian and Courtney arrived when I called you yesterday?

Representing an incomplete action that was not done in a specific time in the past before another simple past action

Examples:

  • The students had gone for their games period before the teacher could inform them about the assignment they had to do.
  • It was so unfortunate that Finn had died before the series was over.

Check Your Understanding of the Past Perfect Tense

Since you have learnt about the past perfect tense, why not check how far you have understood the topic? Fill in the blanks with the right form of the tense in the following sentences.

1. Alice ______________ (read) all the Harry Potter novels by the time she was fifteen years old.

2. I ________________ (complete – negative) my work when my parents arrived.

3. When we were in college, we ________________ (perform) this song live.

4. My friend, Raimy _______ already ___________ (watch) the movie before we met.

5. _________ you ___________ (work – negative interrogative) at CTS before you started working at this company?

6. My mom told me that we ________ (meet) Priyanka already but I don’t think so.

7. My brother __________ (solve) five math problems before I completed two.

8. The place ___________ (close) by the time we got there.

9. _______ he __________ (bring) all the documents when you reached?

10. We felt sad that the movie _______ already _________ (start) before we got there.

Here are the answers for the above exercise. Check if you have answered the questions correctly.

1. Alice had read all the Harry Potter novels by the time she was fifteen years old.

2. I had not completed my work when my parents arrived.

3. When we were in college, we had performed this song live.

4. My friend, Raimy, had already watched the movie before we met.

5. Hadn’t you worked at CTS before you started working at this company?

6. My mom told me that we had met Priyanka already but I don’t think so.

7. My brother had solved five math problems before I completed two.

8. The place had closed by the time we got there.

9. Had he brought all the documents when you reached?

10. We felt sad that the movie had already started before we got there.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Past Perfect Tense

What is the past perfect tense?

The past perfect tense clearly states that one action took place before another action in the past. It can also be said that the past perfect tense represents a past action that took place in the past.

What is the definition of the past perfect tense?

The past perfect tense, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “ the form of a verb that is used to show that an action had already finished when another action happened.” The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines the past perfect tense as “the form of a verb that expresses an action completed before a particular point in the past, formed in English with had and the past participle.” The Collins Dictionary puts it a little differently. According to them, the past perfect tense is “a tense indicating an action as completed or a state as having ended before a specified or implied time in the past,” and they also call the tense with another term – ‘pluperfect.’

What is the formula of the past perfect tense?

The general formula of the past perfect tense is as follows:
Subject + had + past participle + the rest of the sentence

What are the uses of the past perfect tense?

The past perfect tense can be used to provide information about the following scenarios:

  • To indicate the order of more than one past event.
  • To denote the time until a certain point in the past.
  • To inform that an action was incomplete and not done at a specific time in the past when a simple past action took place.

Leave a Comment

Your Mobile number and Email id will not be published.

*

*