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 after before

We can also use before + past perfect 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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Submitted by Coffin Dodger on Mon, 01/07/2019 - 17:21

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Hello, I'm ever sorry to bother, but I got confused a little. Let's Imagine that yesterday I went to a club and I'm telling my buddie a story. A) " Listen, from the momemt I had entered, she had not taken her eyes off of me. But then, suddenly, she got up and approached me. " B) " From the moment I had moved to London, I hadn't had a friend. I was alone then. "

Hello Coffin Dodger

You can use the past perfect like that. People often use the past simple instead of the past perfect when that is possible. That is the case here, i.e. you could use the past simple in place of the past perfect in all of those verbs.

If you had a different questions, please let us know.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Aniyanmon on Sat, 29/06/2019 - 04:31

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Thanks a lot Kirk Sir for your clarification.

Submitted by Garry301 on Fri, 28/06/2019 - 18:31

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My query is this Sir, I have come across this only sentence, 'It was the first time they had met/ met.' which tense to use, had met or met, only?

Hello Garry301

Both are possible, but if I had to choose one, I'd say 'had met'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Fri, 28/06/2019 - 16:31

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Dear Sir, I would like to know which of the following sentences is grammattically correct. Can we use "since" in simple past tense as in the first sentence. Enlighten me on this. 1.He wanted to be an actor ever since he was a teenager. 2.He has wanted to be an actor ever since he was a teenager. Thank you.
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Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 28/06/2019 - 16:52

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello again Aniyanmon

Does he still want to be an actor now, i.e. at the time you say this sentence? If so, only 2 is correct.

I'd suggest avoiding the past simple in the main clause of a sentence that has a 'since' clause, as it's usually not correct. If you were speaking about a person who no longer wants to be an actor, but did want to be one at one point in his life, then I'd suggest something like 'He wanted to be an actor from his teenage years until he finished university' (for example).

You might be interested in reading through the 'Since' page in the Cambridge Dictionary's Grammar section.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Thu, 27/06/2019 - 17:59

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Dear Sir, I would like to ask one question to you. "I have been ill for some time now". Does it mean that "I have not been ill for some days now". My doubt is whether "some time" and "some days" have the same meaning. Enlighten me on this. Thank you.
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 27/06/2019 - 18:56

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon

'some time' is quite a vague expression -- it could mean for a few days, a few weeks, a few months or even longer. The context, including the person who says it, would in theory help you understand how long.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zhao on Thu, 27/06/2019 - 06:25

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Dear Sir May i ask you to correct if i am wrong. From my opinion, the "perfect" tense essentially would deliver the meaning of unfinished state, or in a certain unfinished period. Based on different context, can I express as followings Case 1: Context: I used to enjoy apple, but gradually did not like it after some years(not certain), so eventually, i do not like it now. Express: I ate apples, which i had enjoyed since i was a child, and vegetables from my garden. Case 2 Context: Apple is my favorite fruit always. Express: 1. I ate apples, which I have enjoyed since I was a child, and vegetables from my garden. Or even use the simple present tense to express "Apple is my favorite food" as a habit 2. I ate apples, which I enjoy since i was a child, and vegetables from my garden. Thx in advanced for your comment