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

 

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Average: 4.3 (13 votes)
Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

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 Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore 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

Profile picture for user Aniyanmon

Submitted by Aniyanmon on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 12:41

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Dear sir, Kindly help me to write the following letter grammatically. "As per order no.5/RCH dated 10/01/2019 Sri.Arun was transferred to Head office. As per order no.6/RCH dated 15/02/2019 I have been transferred to District hospital. I had joined duty on 19/02/2019. I have verified all the files there." I would like to know whether use of " had " is correct in the above usage
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 02/03/2019 - 07:51

In reply to by Aniyanmon

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Hello Aniyanmon,

I'm afraid we don't check texts or correct them. We have far too many users and are too small a team to offer such a service!

 

I'm not sure what you mean by I had joined duty on... but I imagine you are talking about beginning work there. In that case we would probably say

I took up my post there on...

However, it is hard to be sure without knowing the full situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user AminulIslam.

Submitted by AminulIslam. on Mon, 25/02/2019 - 06:37

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Sir, which one is preferable? 1.An intensive search was coonducted by the detective to locate those criminals, who had escaped or who escaped.

Hello AminulIslam

It depends on the context, but probably the first one is better.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team