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: 4.2 (5 votes)
Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Wed, 27/03/2019 - 17:54

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Dear sir, Kindly tell me which of the following sentences are correct. 1.Deonty Wilder selects only those opponents that he is confident in beating. 2.Deonty Wilder selects only those opponents on whom he has confidence to beat. 3. Deonty Wilder selects only those opponents that he is confident to beat. 4. Deonty Wilder selects only those opponents that he is confident about beating. If there is no correct sentences, please prepare one for me. Thanking you
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 28/03/2019 - 06:29

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon 1 and 4 are correct; I would be more likely to say 4 than 1. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team
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Submitted by Aniyanmon on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 09:56

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Dear Sir, I would like to know the meaning of the following sentences: " He has been a police man " Is he still a police man ? or Was he a police man. Kindly clarify it's meaning There is a debate among us regarding the meaning of this sentence. Thanking you in advance 27 minutes ago
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 16:04

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon

In most situations, the use of the present perfect here indicates that he is still a policeman at the moment of speaking. There are situations where this may not be true, but that is dependent on the context.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Thu, 07/03/2019 - 16:57

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Dear Sir, I would like to know the meaning of the following sentences and also kindly let me know whether they are correct. 1. Is there a wooden cot in your house? 2. Do you have a wooden cot in your house? Thanks in advance
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 07:01

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon,

Both sentences are correct. Is there is a question about presence or lack of it; Do you have identifies ownership. For example, if I say there is a car outside my house then it is probably not my car, but if I say I have a car outside my house then the listener will understand that I am the owner.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Tue, 05/03/2019 - 14:01

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Dear sir, I would like to know the meaning of the following sentences 1. If you invited him, he might come 2. If you had invited him he might have come Do the above sentence having the same meaning. Kindly clarify. Thanks in advance
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 06/03/2019 - 11:01

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon

Sentence 1 uses a second conditional structure and talks about an imaginary situation in the present or future. Sentence 2 uses a third conditional structure and talks about an imaginary past situation, i.e. a situation in the past that did not happen, but could have happened if the condition had been met.

You can see more about conditionals on our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team