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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


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.

Hello leonardo999,

It's hard without knowing the context to be sure what the correct form should be of the sentence, but the verb form in the second half of the sentence needs to be changed. I suspect also that 'know' is not the correct verb here as you appear to be using it as an action or dynamic verb rather than a state verb; for this meaning you need to say 'get to know' or 'learn'.

I think the correct sentence would be:

I spread peace and love when i learned (that) the world is sacred.

However, as I said, without the context I cannot be sure that this is the intended meaning.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I,m very happy that i reached the right trying to improve my communication skill, the problem is when am talking geting confused about the tenses and grammar. so im getting stucked
in between the talk. I hope i can overcome the problems and improve it to a good level

Can you please help me with this.....
I have visited Russia several times, but can i say if i am not going there again ( i visited Russia several times)

If the action is not in progress and has already stopped you can use Present Perfect of course, Chamildiss, So: I have been to Russia several times.

Hi chamildiss,

You can say "I have visited" (present perfect) or "I visited" (past simple); whether you return to Russia or not doesn't influence which form to use. The difference between these two forms is a matter of perspective. If you use the present perfect, the implied context is "in my lifetime until now" and if you use the past simple, you're simply stating a fact about the past. Neither of these statements make any suggestion about the future. You might find our talking about the past page useful to review the different forms used to speak about the past.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I prepared worksheets on Past Perfect using this page, a good test I had for my 8th graders...

Dear sir kirk

i'm really happy to be integrated in your social environment. i have a really low level, in the writing, reading and speaking. I need some guidance to learn english because i really have to improve level.

thank you