Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense :

Past Perfect Tense describes an action completed before a certain moment in the past.

1. I met him in London in 1980. I had seen him last three years before.

If two actions happened in the past it may be necessary to show which action happened earlier than the other. The past perfect is mainly used in such circumstances. The simple past is used in one clause and the past perfect in the other.

1. When I reached the station, the train had started.
2. I had finished my work when my wife wanted me to come with her.
3. She had written the letter before I came.

The 'Past perfect' tense is constructed with “had + past participle of the verb'.

1. I had met.
2. He had received.
3. He had commanded.

If we are already talking about the past, we use the past perfect to go back to an earlier past time, to talk about things that had already happened at the time we are talking about.

1. He was no stranger to me. I had known him before.
2. I had to explain that I had forgotten my keys.
3. I could read from his face that he had received bad news.

The past perfect is only used when there is this idea of 'second' or earlier past. We do not use it just to talk about things that happened sometime ago.

1. I left some photos to be developed.
2. Are they ready yet?

Here in this sentence, a simple past 'left' is enough.

The past perfect is common in "reported speech" after past verbs like said, told, asked, explained, thought, wondered, etc. It refers to things that had already happened when the conversation or thoughts took place.

1. I said to them that I had done enough work for one day.
2. She wondered who had come and gone.
3. I thought I had sent the cheque a week before.

The past perfect can correspond to different 'direct speech' tenses.

Study the following sentences.

1. When I had washed the cat, it ran off into the street.
2. My wife died before I had had a chance to speak to her.
3. I had intended to make a cake, but I ran out of time.
4. If I had had a sharp blade, I could have shaved much better.
5. If I had been fine yesterday evening, I should have played tennis.
6. If Pedro had needed any help, he would have asked Mrs. Cox.
7. "You look as if you have caught a cold," said Kate.

Past Perfect Tense

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