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? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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.

Adverbs

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

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Average: 4 (4 votes)
Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Tue, 05/03/2019 - 04:18

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Dear Sir, I would like you ask you the meaning of the following sentence 1. John might have failed the test but he was lucky and passed it. Is this sentence right, if yes, kindly tell me it's meaning Thank you in advance
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 05/03/2019 - 06:35

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon,

The sentence is correct.

We can use might have to describe something that was a possibility in the past. Your sentence means that there was a chance of not passing but in the end John was successful.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Mon, 04/03/2019 - 06:57

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To respected Peter.M, A couple of months back you cleared a doubt of another person. He asked you which of the following sentence is right 1.I lived in Kurdistan for two years 2. I have lived in Kurdistan for two years You answered as follows In the first sentence 'lived' the speaker no longer lives in Kurdistan. In the second sentence the speaker still lives there. The past simple describes finished actions or states in the past. The present perfect links a past action or state to the present. Sir, I have been working in a government department since 2003. My doubt is can I say " I have joined the department in 2003". As you said "The present perfect links a past action or state to the present". Yes still now I am working in the same department. So I believe that the usage of " have" is right in the above sentence. Humbly request you to clarify my doubt. Thanking you in advance

Hello Aniyanmon

I hope you don't mind me answering for Peter. In this case, it would not be correct to say 'I have joined the department in 2003' because the action of joining the department happened in the past and only in the past. 'join' refers only to the first moment that you become part of a group and isn't used afterwards to refer to being a part of it.

Does that make sense?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Aniyanmon on Sat, 02/03/2019 - 07:51

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Dear sir, Kindly advise me to write the following matter grammatically : "Certified that Shi.Albert had attended his duty from 01/01/2019 to 28/02/2019 except holidays. This certificate is issued to be produced before the District Medical Officer of Health, Idukki" Sir, is the usage of " had" in the above sentence is right
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 03/03/2019 - 07:28

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon,

I think the past simple is required here rather than the past perfect:

Shi.Albert attended his duty

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Aniyanmon on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 14:43

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Dear sir, Today ie on 01/03/2019 I read a news in a popular news paper. The news goes as follows : "The total number of IPS officers in service was 111. Of this about 16 officers have retired since January 2018 - that was when the list was published ". Sir, is the usage of " have " right in this context Thanks in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 16:43

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon

Yes, the present perfect is appropriate and correct in this context, i.e. a time period that began in the past (January 2018) and which includes the present moment.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team