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Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect tense

The past perfect tense is an essential part of English grammar. It is frequently used to discuss past occurrences in context with other past events. If you’re not familiar with the past perfect tense, it can be difficult to understand at first. You’ll soon get the hang of it with enough practice.

In this blog post, we will explore what the past perfect tense is, how to form it, and when to use it in various contexts. Additionally, we’ll provide you with plenty of examples. Exercises to help you master the past perfect tense are also included.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the past perfect tense?
    1. Past perfect affirmative sentences
    2. Past perfect negative sentences
    3. Past perfect interrogative sentences
      1. Past perfect in Yes-No Questions:
  2. How to use the past perfect
  3. Time expressions used with the past perfect tense
  4. Past perfect exercises

What is the past perfect tense?

The past perfect tense is a verb tense used to talk about an action that was completed before another past action. In other words, it describes a past event that happened before another past event.

To form the past perfect, you need to use the auxiliary verb “had” with the past participle of the main verb. Here is the basic structure:

Subject + had + past participle

Example: I had studied English for two years before I moved to the United States.

Past perfect affirmative sentences

  1. She had finished her work before the meeting started.
  2. had studied French for two years before I traveled to Paris.
  3. had finished my homework before my friends came over to hang out.
  4. The train had already left the station by the time we got to the platform.
  5. She had visited Paris several times before she finally decided to move there.
  6. The company had hired a new CEO to turn around their declining profits.
  7. The football team had won every game this season until they lost in the championship match.

Past-perfect negative sentences

  1. He hadn’t eaten breakfast before he went to work.
  2. They hadn’t seen each other for years before the reunion.
  3. had not studied for the exam, so I didn’t do well.
  4. The car hadn’t been serviced in months, so it broke down on the highway.
  5. He hadn’t seen the movie before, so we decided to watch it together.
  6. The restaurant hadn’t received any complaints until last night’s dinner service.
  7. She hadn’t written the report yet, so I couldn’t review it.

Past perfect interrogative sentences

Past perfect in Yes-No Questions:

  1. Had you ever traveled abroad before your trip to Italy?
  2. Had they finished their homework before the movie started?
  3. Had you finished your work before you went to bed last night?
  4. Had the package arrived before you left for vacation?
  5. Had they seen that movie before they recommended it to you?
  6. Had the guests arrived by the time you started cooking dinner?
  7. Had he completed the project before the deadline?

Past perfect in Wh-Questions:

  1. What had he done before he arrived at the party?
  2. Where had they gone for vacation before they visited the beach?
  3. What had you been doing before the power went out?
  4. Where had they gone before they came back with all those shopping bags?
  5. Why had the company decided to downsize its workforce?
  6. When had he realized that he had lost his wallet?
  7. How many times had she visited that city before she moved there permanently?

How to use the past perfect

The past perfect tense is used to 

  • Clarify the order of two actions in the past

Consider this example:

My brother went to school at 7:45. I woke up at 9:00.

The first action is (my brother went to school), and the second action is (I woke up).

So the first action is going to be in the past perfect tense, whereas the second action will be in the simple past.

My brother had gone to school before I woke up.

  • Express regret or wishes in the past

Consider this example:

Last year, I didn’t have good grades because I didn’t work hard.

I regret I hadn’t had good grades.

I wish I had worked harder.

  • The past perfect is used with Conditional type 3

Consider this example:

Last year, I didn’t have good grades because I didn’t work hard.

If I had worked hard, I would have had good grades.

If + past perfect

  • The past perfect is used in reported speech.

Consider these examples:

  1. “Direct speech: “I saw a film yesterday.”
  2. Indirect: He said he had seen a film yesterday.
  1. “Direct speech: “We have just finished our meal.”‎
  2. Indirect: He said they had just finished their meal.

Time expressions used with the past perfect tense

As soon as, never, already+ Past perfectWhen + Simple past
Until, just, since + Past perfectBy the time + Simple past
After + Past perfectBefore + Simple past


  • My brother had gone to school before I woke up.
  • After I had revised my lessons, I watched a film.
  • had never seen such a film before.

Past-perfect exercises

Coming soon


  1. Thank you so much for your great efforts dear nabil. Please how can I have a look at the page of lesson plans?
    wish you all the best


  2. Abdelaazizelyamani Abdelaazizelyamani

    * until + simple past not past perfect . Ex: I had stayed in the hotel until I recovered .
    * until + past perfect (negative) . Ex: The employees hadn’t stopped smoking until they saw the boss coming into .
    P.s : I think we shouldn’t add too many uses to the past perfet as you mentioned ( reported , wishes) and leave this until they have these lessons . Walah o3lam
    Thank you so much Sir .

  3. الله يجازيك بالخير اخي الكريم٠

  4. Tomorrow must be transformed in the reported speech

  5. First of all thank you so much for sharing, I appreciate the way u teach students… but it seems to me that it d be better to teach only the main use of the past perfect ,that is an action that happened before another in the past… yet, what u shared is an opportunity for teachers to refresh their minds.Keep up the good job . Thank you so much again.


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