English Grammar: Past Perfect Tense

During our English speaking courses, many people question the importance of grammar in spoken English, while some fervently support it. I guess this question can be reserved for other times. Today we are going to take a look at past perfect tense and its applications in spoken English.

Past perfect tense refers to a non-continuous action that was completed in the past. Such sentences are formed by using the past perfect form of the auxiliary verb ‘to had ‘, followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Verb

In past perfect tense, the main verb is in its past participle form while auxiliary verb ‘had’ is used.

Make a statement

A statement in past perfect tense is constructed in following ways.

Subject

Auxiliary Verb

Main Verb

Object

I, you, we, they

had

cooked

food

He, she, it

had

cooked

food

I, you , we, they

had

not

cooked

food

He, she, it

had

not

cooked

food

Structure for a statement, in general, can be:

Subject + had + past participle of main verb + Object (positive statement)

Subject + had + no, not, never + past participle of main verb + Object (negative statement)

Ask a question

While forming an interrogative sentence, auxiliary verb precedes subject in general. The following can be used of past perfect tense in interrogative sentences.

Auxiliary Verb

Subject

Main Verb

Object

Had

you, we, they

cooked

food?

Had

He, she, it

cooked

food?

Had

you, we, they

not

cooked

food?

Had

He, she, it

not

cooked

food?

Had + Subject + past participle of main verb + Object (Positive statement)

Had + Subject + no, not, never + past participle of main verb + Object (Negative statement)

Following are few situations where the past perfect tense is used.

Completion of task

Past perfect describes the completion of the task in the past.

  • I had never had such delicious sweets.
  • I had completed my graduation way before you did.
  • I had completed the task and then only I was allowed to leave.
  • He had done his masters before getting into a job.

Happening in distant past

It shows the activity of past before another activity in the past itself.

  • We had stuck to Satyagraha, until the British rule was over.
  • We had experienced the fight till it got over.
  • We had gone to the parlor before we went for the party.
  • I had cleaned the mess before I left my room.