Learning the Past Perfect Tense is relatively easy and understandable than other tenses, it is easy to use also. The uniqueness of this tense is that it talks about the ‘past in the past.’ In this concept, we will take a look at the use and structure of the past perfect tense which will be followed by a short exercise to check your understanding.

The making if the Past Perfect tense:

subject+Auxiliary have+Main verb
Conjugated in past simple
hadPast participle
  • Auxiliary verb is conjugated in the past simple: had
  • Main verb is invariable in past participle form: -ed
  • In case of negative sentences, ‘not’ is put between the auxiliary verb and the main verb
  • In case of question sentences, the subject and the auxiliary verb is exchanged

Let us have a look at some of the examples of the past perfect tense:

subjectAuxiliary verbMain verb
+IhadcompletedMy assignment.
ShehadnotreceivedThe mail.
?HadtheyDrunk soda?

Very often, we contract the subject and the auxiliary verb when we use the past perfect tense while speaking. At times, we also do this in informal writing, something like this:

She hadShe’d
I hadI’d
You hadYou’d
We hadWe’d
They hadThey’d

For example,

  • I’d taken a bath already.
  • She’d gone home.

In the case of negative sentences, we can contract the auxiliary verb and ‘not’:

  • She hadn’t returned home.
  • He hadn’t had his dinner.

What is the Past perfect tense used for?

 It is used to express actions in the past before another action in the past. Past perfect tense talks about the past in the past. 

For example,

  • The bus left at 5pm. We arrived at 5:30pm. When we arrived, the train had left.
  • I was hungry, I had not eaten for 6 hours.

The Past Perfect tense is normally used in reported speech after verbs such as said, told, asked, thought, wondered, etc.

For example:

  • She had told me that she had eaten.
  •  I had thought that I had heard him before, but I was wrong.
  • He wondered if he had eaten there before.
  • We asked them why they had not finished the assignment.


You can do this exercise on paper or a book and keep it for your reference.

  1. I _______ finished my assignment. (had not, not had, has not)
  2. Have we ______ to them before? (spoke, spoken, spoked)
  3. He had never ______ her before. (hear, hearing, heard)
  4. She ______ everyone that the exam was difficult. (say, asked, told)
  5.  Where ______ the peon gone? (have, has, had)

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