Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense

You use the past perfect tense to describe a singular event that has occurred before another past action.

  • I had gone to work before I realized that the office was closed.
  • By the time we had purchased our new house, someone finally made an offer on our old one.
  • I had hurried to leave the house on time, only to get stuck in a traffic jam.

The main difference between present perfect and past perfect tense is that the event or state of mind in the past perfect tense happened completely in the past; it does not describe something you may still experience in the present moment.

Forming the Past Perfect Tense

You form the past perfect tense by combining the past tense form of the verb “to have” with the past tense form of the root verb.

  • I had traveled the whole wide world looking for love before I met you.
  • They had researched all the restaurants in town prior to making a decision.
  • We had interviewed the candidates before selecting our final choices.

Making the Past Perfect Tense Negative

To make the past perfect tense negative, simply insert “had not” with the root verb.

  • We had not decided which candidate was the right choice until we read the dossiers.
  • Before you mentioned it, I hadn’t thought of that idea.
  • It had rained the entire week before we got there.

Phrasing the Past Perfect Tense as a Question

The interrogative form of a past perfect tense sentence begins with the past tense auxiliary verb “to have,” followed by the subject and past tense of the root verb. Interrogatives can also begin with adverbs expressing time or place.

  • Had you misplaced that key before I came in?
  • Where had you disappeared last year before Harvey gave his acceptance speech?
  • Had they ever heard of good manners?

Learn more about verb tenses.