Past Perfect Tense

Using Past Perfect Tense, Definitions and Examples. Follow the list for detailed expressions;
The tenses simply show the time of an action.
PAST PERFECT TENSEPast Perfect Tense indicates a past action which is completed before another past action.
POSITIVE FORM (+) :  Subject + HAD ( auxilary verb- have ) + V3 ( third form of main verb – past participle )
NEGATIVE FORM (-) : Subject + HAD ( auxilary verb- have ) + NOT + V3 ( third form of main verb – past participle )QUESTION FORM (?) : HAD ( auxilary verb- have ) + Subject + V3 ( third form of main verb – past participle )
NEGATIVE QUESTION FORM (?) : HAD ( auxilary verb- have ) + NOT + Subject + V3 ( third form of main verb – past participle )

I had lookedI had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad I lookedHad not / Hadn’t I looked
You had lookedYou had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad you lookedHad not / Hadn’t you looked
He had lookedHe had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad he lookedHad not / Hadn’t he looked
She had lookedShe had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad she lookedHad not / Hadn’t she looked
It had lookedIt had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad it lookedHad not / Hadn’t it looked
We had lookedWe had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad we lookedHad not / Hadn’t we looked
You had lookedYou had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad you lookedHad not / Hadn’t you looked
They had lookedThey had not ( hadn’t) lookedHad they lookedHad not / Hadn’t they looked

For “HAD”;
had –> ‘d    Ex: I‘d looked.
had not –> hadn’t   Ex: I hadn’t looked.
Common Tense Markers:
Already / Just / Never / Until that day / Not yet / Once


  • When I return home, she had already left.
  • I went there after I had completed the task.
  • She hadn’t come late to the school before.
  • My father and mother had been married for two years when I was born.
  • Until Linda went to England, he had never spoken English.
  • My son told me that he hadn’t been able to make such a beautiful picture before.
  • If you had studied hard last year, he would have passed all his exams.
  • Lisa had done her homework so she was happy.
  • David had lived in Florida for ten years before he moved to California.
  • Had they gone out when I called?
  • The woman had cried till the morning.
  • I hadn’t returned to university.
  • Hadn’t Helen left when I went to the club?
  • By the time we came, she had finished the project.
  • I had already taken an umbrella when it began to rain.
  • After we had left the house, the telephone rang.
  • If she had looked around in detail, she could have found the key.

We use other question words ( Like Who, What, Why , etc.) in past perfect tense.
Question Words (who, what, why, etc.) + had+ subject + V3


  • What had you heard from the outside?
  • Why had he been so angry?
  • When had you written this novel?

1. Past Perfect Tense is used to express the past action, already finished when another past action happened.
( In such sentenses, it is not emphasized how long or how many times the action has continued. It is emphasized that the action had happened before another action.)


  • I had made a decision before you called me.
  • When she arrived, the bus had already left.
  • My mother had written three books before she died.
  • He had just escaped when the police came.
  • After the film had started, we arrived.
  • I had never seen a lion before I went to Africa.

2. It is used for the past action that started in the past and continued ( or done several times ) up to a given time in the past.

( * In such sentences, It is emphasized that how long or how many times the action has continued and the event ended )

( * Past Perfect Tense shows that the action was completed at the given time, on the other hand, Past Perfect Continuous Tense shows that the action was not completed ( the event continued to happen )  )

( * Especially we use Past Perfect Tense with stative verbs / non-continuous verbs / mixed verbs )


  • The police had warned those people many times before. ( the action was completed )
  • I had never seen him for 5 days. But I saw him yesterday.  ( the action was completed )
  • We had had the house for 20 years before the earthquake.  ( the action was completed )
  • When her husband died, they had been married for 30 years.  ( the action was completed )
  • I had always believed that life was very strange.  ( the action was completed )
  • They had owned this car for ten years before they sold it.  ( the action was completed )

3. It is used to talk about unreal or imaginary things, wishes in the past. ( with If (Conditional) Sentences – Type 3 )


  • If I had heard the question, I would have given you the answer.
  • If I had had some money, I could have bought him nice shoes.
  • If you had asked me, I could have helped you.
  • I wish I had been there.
  • We wish we hadn’t eaten so much.
  • If you had loved me a little, I would have done everything for you.

4. Past Perfect Tense is used in reported speech after verbs like said, told, asked. etc.

( In reported speech, Past Perfect Tense is used instead of ” Simple Past Tense and Present Perfect Tense ” )


  • He told us he had visited Paris twice before. ( He told ‘ I have visited Paris twice before’ )
  • She said she had swum. ( She said ‘ she swam’ )
  • Jackson asked the singer when he had sung his first song. ( Jackson asked the singer  ‘When did you sing your first song? ( )
  • The students said they had had a very easy exam.  ( They said ‘ We had a very easy exam.’ )
  • My teacher greeted me and said she had never seen me for 3 days. ( The teacher said ‘Hello Sam! I have never seen you for 3 days.’ )
  • He said he had trusted her very much.

For Differences Between Past Perfect Tense and Past Perfect Continuous Tense click here
For Past Perfect Continuous Tense click here

1. “Past Perfect Tense” is often used with “Time Clauses”. 
Time Clauses have two clauses which are main clause and time clause. Time clause is the clause beginning with time words ( when, after, before, by the time, etc. ). The clause or the event, which happened before, is expressed with “past perfect tense”.


  • When I return home, she had already left
  • I went there after I had completed the task.
  • By the time we came, she had finished the project.
  • Until Linda went to England, he had never spoken English.

2. If the time interval between two events is not too much, which means, if two events happened one after the other in series, then there is no need to use past perfect. We can use simple past instead.


  • When I opened the door, the cat came in quickly.
  • As soon as the phone rang, Alice answered the phone.

3. Past Perfect Tense is used with the structures given below when the time is past:
If Clauses ( Type 3- unreal past ):


  • If they had listened to me carefully, they wouldn’t have done wrong in the exam.
  • If you hadn’t come late, you could have met him.

As If / As Though ( contrary to fact – referring to past time )


  • He talks as if he hadn’t known anything about what happened yesterday.
  • She acts as though we hadn’t met last night.

Wish Clauses:


  • You came late. I wish you had come in time.
  • We drank so much. We wish we hadn’t drunk so much.

If Only


  • If only I had learned English when I was at high school.
  • If only I hadn’t argued with my friend yesterday.

Would Rather + sb + had V3 + sb/sth


  • My father took me to the theater. I would rather he had taken me to the cinema instead.
  • My friend gave me a teddy bear as a birthday gift. I‘d rather she had given me a book.

Hardly/Scarcely … when …  &  No sooner … than …
( Subject + had + hardly/scarcely/ no sooner + V3 + sth + when/than + … )


  • We had hardly/ scarcely closed our eyes when we started to sleep.
  • I had no sooner closed the phone than the door was knocked. 


  1. Hari May 7, 2017
  2. N.EDWARD PAUL May 7, 2017
  3. Quaider May 9, 2017