Past perfect

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The past perfect, also called the pluperfect, is a compound verb form which requires two verbs: the simple past of the auxiliary verb HAVE (had) and a past participle. Before you continue, review these lessons: Verb HAVE | Past participle

subject aux.
verb
past
part.
 
 I had eaten already.
They had visited the Louvre in April.
It had been a difficult day.

The past perfect is used to talk about a past event that occurred before a different past event.

Tom and I had already eaten before we saw you yesterday.

Note that there are three actions on the timeline:

  • Tom and I ate yesterday.
  • Tom and I saw you yesterday.
  • Today, I am talking to you about yesterday.

Remember, if I am speaking about a single event in the past, the past perfect is not required. For example:

Tom and I saw you yesterday.

As you can see, there are only two events on the timeline:

  • Tom and I saw you yesterday.
  • Today, I am talking to you about yesterday.

Because there is only a single time period in the past that I am referring to, I use the simple past.

Here is another example using the past perfect.

The man was tired when he arrived home. It had been a difficult day.

There are three successive events on the timeline.

  • The man had a difficult day.
  • The man arrived home.
  • Now, I am telling you about the man.

By looking at the timeline, we can see the difficult day happened before the man arrived home. There is a past event (arrived home) and another past event that preceded that (It had been a difficult day). Now in the present, I am telling you about that man in the past.

 
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