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Past perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like They'd finished the project by March or Had you finished work when I called?

Look at these examples to see how the past perfect is used.

He couldn't make a sandwich because he'd forgotten to buy bread.
The hotel was full, so I was glad that we'd booked in advance.
My new job wasn't exactly what I’d expected.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Past perfect: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Time up to a point in the past

We use the past perfect simple (had + past participle) to talk about time up to a certain point in the past.

She'd published her first poem by the time she was eight. 
We'd finished all the water before we were halfway up the mountain.
Had the parcel arrived when you called yesterday?

Past perfect for the earlier of two past actions

We can use the past perfect to show the order of two past events. The past perfect shows the earlier action and the past simple shows the later action.

When the police arrived, the thief had escaped.

It doesn't matter in which order we say the two events. The following sentence has the same meaning.

The thief had escaped when the police arrived.

Note that if there's only a single event, we don't use the past perfect, even if it happened a long time ago.

The Romans spoke Latin. (NOT The Romans had spoken Latin.)

Past perfect with before

We can also use the past perfect followed by before to show that an action was not done or was incomplete when the past simple action happened.

They left before I'd spoken to them.
Sadly, the author died before he'd finished the series.


We often use the adverbs already (= 'before the specified time'), still (= as previously), just (= 'a very short time before the specified time'), ever (= 'at any time before the specified time') or never (= 'at no time before the specified time') with the past perfect. 

I called his office but he'd already left.
It still hadn't rained at the beginning of May.
I went to visit her when she'd just moved to Berlin.
It was the most beautiful photo I'd ever seen.
Had you ever visited London when you moved there?
I'd never met anyone from California before I met Jim.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Past perfect: 2


Language level

Intermediate: B1


Tank you sir i have problem in the pronouciation and writting and i d'ont know some words

Hello Corca,

I already answered this question above - I thought I'd just point this out in case you missed it.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

hi there! I,m new in this amazing website and i´m glad by this one.

by the way, i would like to know if i can download the videos of word on the street.

Hello jo lc,

Welcome to LearnEnglish! I'm glad to hear you like the site and I hope we can help you to improve your English.

I'm afraid the videos of Word on the Street are not available for download, for legal and technical reasons. However, you can download the transcripts for each episode and you can access them online as often as you wish.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello kirk, I sometimes get confused with past perfect tense and present perfect tense.

Did you have food vs Have you had food.

Did you go to a doctor vs Have you been to a doctor.

Could you please tell me which one to be used when like in what situations ?

Thanks in advance.

I'm a beginner and I'm learning english I'm little bit confused pas perfet tense normally we used had been but I'm which condition we use had been and third form if verb.. Example you'd been invited as well ?? Can u clear me this tense

Hello Monad Abbasi,

'had been' plus the third form of a verb is an example of a passive verb in the past perfect. Please see our active and passive voice page for an explanation of the passive, which I think will answer your question. But if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask them there.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone,
can anyone tell me the sentence " I knew Johnson for 15 minutes" is possible and correct as i am trying to suggest that Johnson was alive before 15 minutes so at that time i met him but shockly i get news about him that he was passed away, so is it correct to say " I knew johnson for 15 minutes"?

Hello leonardo999,

Yes, that sentence is correct in that context.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Respectful sir,
Primarly i want to thank all of the ones who cooperated and worked in creating such an amazing cultural and educational site that always helps us in solving linguistic matters. Anyway, for my concerns i would like to ask you that the sentence i have provided to you below is correct according to grammer ,if not please explain it to me because this sentence is proven wrong by some online digital grammer checkers online.

I spread peace and love when i had known the world is sacred. ( is it correct in accordance to grammer in general)

I Learned How To Sing When Love Became My Major...
I Learned How To Dance When Music Became My Favourite...
I Spread Peace And Love When I Had Known The World Is Sacred...
I Was Gone From This World When My Mission Had Been Faded...
I Always Loved Ones Though They Related Me To The Hatred...
And I will Haunt You Forever With That Peace You Had To Never...

I will be thankful if you explain it in detail.