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Past perfect

Past perfect construction: had + participle (worked, saved) 

Example verb: send

I had sent   We had sent
You had sent   You (guys) had sent
He/she/it had sent   They had sent

The past perfect is used to talk about a completed action before the past

(The past before the past).

  • had left the office before 18h yesterday. 
  • You had not told me about this before.
  • She explained to me that she had completed the project.

(What is highlighted in red are verbs or adverbs that denote the past, thus the past perfect must follow because the action is a completed action in a past before the past).

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #24: Past perfect

Explanation

Construction: had + past participle (seen, looked, spoken, explained)

Example verb: look

I had looked   We had looked
You had looked   You (guys) had looked
He/she/it had looked   They had looked
  • The past perfect is used to talk about a completed action before the past (the past before the past).

Context

  • Had you left the office before six o’clock last night, Jennifer?1
  • Yes, I believe I had left before six,2 although it’s possible it could have been a little later. Why?
  • Oh, nothing really. I was just wondering3 because there had supposed to be a fire drill last night,4 but so far, no one has heard anything regarding a fire drill occurring.
  • Had anyone told you about a fire drill previously?5
  • Um,6 to be honest, no. No one had told me anything.7 The only reason why I thought that maybe there had been a fire drill8 was because I overheard two colleagues in the other department talking about it. That’s all.
  • Yes, well, you’ve got to be careful when overhearing things because you’ll never have the whole context of what is being said.
  • Spot on!

Analysis

  1. Had you left the office before six o’clock last night, Jennifer? The past perfect is being used to show a past before the past. In this case, the first past is left the office and the other past is last night.
  2. I believe I had left before six. The past perfect is used to express the past before the past. The first past had left, and the second past, before six.
  3. I was just wondering. This expression is used very frequently in English when we want to request for something, and we don’t want to sound to assertive nor pushy. It is generally implied that something is wanted when using the expression ‘just wondering’.
  4. Because there had supposed to be a fire drill last night. The past perfect is used to express a past before a past. The first past being fire drill and the second past being last night.
  5. Had anyone told you about a fire drill previously? The past perfect (had anyone told) is used here to show the past before the past.
  6. Um. This is an interjection. Interjections don’t have any grammatical sense and here, um is a way of showing a sign of ‘not knowing’.
  7. No one had told me anything. The past perfect (had told) describes the action no one had told me anything which in this case implies the past before the past, hence the past perfect.
  8. The only reason why I thought that maybe there had been a fire drill. The past perfect in this sentence is had been a fire drill. The action of the fire drill was a past before the other past I thought. Therefore, the past perfect is used here.

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