Past Perfect Tense in English Grammar
The Past Perfect Tense is used to describe an action completed in the past before a certain moment in the past. When two past actions happened, the Past Perfect Tense is used for the earlier action and the Past Simple is used for the later action.
Past Perfect Tense Structure and Formula: (Rules)
It is essential to focus on signal words because they help us identify the correct tense in a sentence. The signal words for the Past Perfect Tense are:
before, when, after, already, just, never, not yet, until that day, If-Clause of Unfulfilled Condition – type III (If I had talked)
Usage of the Past Perfect Tense:
It is used:
To describe an action completed in the past in relation to another past action.
(first action+ past perfect, second action + simple past)
- When I went to the Railway Station, the train had already left the station.
- When I reached the ground, they had already started playing.
- After I had brushed my teeth properly, I took coffee.
- Before I asked my friend, he had helped me.
In If-Clause of Unfulfilled Condition (Type -III).
- If he had watched the movie Robo, he would have enjoyed it.
- If you had warned me, I would have made that mistake again.
Possible use of when, after and before:
- When: for 2nd event with Past Simple
- Before: for 2nd event with Past Simple
- After: for 1st event with Past Perfect
- When I went shopping they had closed the shops.
- Before I went shopping they had closed the shops.
- After they had closed the shops I went shopping.
Past Perfect Vs. Past Simple
When two events are concerned in the past –
Past Perfect Tense is used to describe the first/earlier action.
Past Simple Tense is used to describe the second/later action.
I had already gone there before she informed me.
1st event 2nd event
When I went home, my children had already slept.
2nd event 1st event
After I had taken my bath, I prayed to God.
1st event 2nd event
Past time adverbials are not used with The Past Perfect Tense.
But these adverbials like yesterday, last week/month/year, in 2019 etc., are used with the Past Simple Tense.
- My friend had visited me last week. (wrong)
- My friend visited me last week. (right)
- She had met her friends yesterday. (wrong)
- She met her friends yesterday. (right)