Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense is a tense which is used to indicate the actions that took place before some point of time in the past. It uses the auxiliary verb i.e. had + past participle. The rule is the same whether the subject is Singular or Plural. Some examples of past perfect tense are – If I had reached the station on time, I would have not missed the train, I had never been to riverside before I went to Varanasi. Thus, you use the past perfect tense while describing any past event or condition before some point in time.

Past perfect tense

Definition of Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect tense is a tense which used to indicate the actions that began and finished in the past before any other action started in the past. As the name suggests, past perfect tense is a part of the perfect tense and thus indicates completed actions. In other words, it describes the first completed activity, then another activity that took place before the present time.

This tense uses had + past participle. In the forming of the past perfect tense, we use ‘had’ irrespective of the subject being Singular or Plural. The second element that is the past participle is formed by adding -ed or -d to the root of the verb.

For example, reached, missed, mixed, wiped, etc. However, you may use verbs with irregular past participles also such as woken, eaten, gone, done, won, etc.

Using Past Perfect Tense sentences to describe:

Following are the situations where we use Past Perfect Tense along with sentences:

  1. Past completed actions before another begin

Sentence: Only after we had bought the tickets, we were able to enter the cinema hall.

It means that you had bought tickets is the first completed action and you were allowed to enter the cinema hall is another completed action.

  1. Events of duration before something in the past

Sentence: I had watched the movies for years without ever having to buy the tickets.

It means before you were allowed to watch movies without tickets but not now.

  1. Conditional statements

Sentence: If I had purchased movie tickets, we would have been able to watch the movie.

It means that you had not purchased the movie tickets and thus you were not able to watch the movie.

  1. Reported Speech

Sentence: The guard asked us if we had bought the movie tickets.

It means that you had to show the guard the tickets you bought.

  1. Show dissatisfaction with the past actions or events

Sentence: I wished I had purchased the movie tickets in advance.

It means that you did not purchase the movie tickets and were unable to watch the movie. Thus, you are dissatisfied with your past action.

Examples of Past Perfect Tense

Past completed actions before another begin:

The following examples express the actions that began in the past and were also completed in the past. Also, they were completed before the beginning of the second event in the past.

  • I had never traveled on a cruise before I went to Goa.
  • After she had attended the internship, she became a practicing lawyer.
  • They had forgotten the books until the librarian reminded them.
  • He had never realized his talent until she praised him.

Events of duration before something in the past:

The following examples express the actions and events that started and ended in the past but also were for a period of time i.e. duration and have now ended.

  • I had delivered lectures for years without ever having to prepare for them.
  • He had admitted his love to her many times.
  • They would have never discovered the truth without enquiring.
  • He had kept convincing her to marry him repeatedly.

Conditional Statements:

The following examples express the conditional actions that took place in the past. Here, the conditional action is a requirement to the consequence or result of the condition.

  • If I had studied during the class, I would have cleared the exams.
  • Only if you had listened to me, you would have not got confused.
  • If we had purchased coupons, we would have got the grocery.
  • If you had worn the mask, you would have not got infected.

Reported Speech:

The following examples express the speech that took place in the past. However, all these actions are now complete. They may have occurred once or over a period of time.

  • The teacher had said it would be a difficult paper.
  • She had wondered how did the airplanes fly.
  • The boss had asked for another report.
  • He had thought it would be a great day.

Show dissatisfaction with the past actions or events

The following examples express an event that did not actually happen in the past. Here, the speaker is showing dissatisfaction with his or her decision and is stating the action he or she wishes had taken place.

  • I wished I had not been rude to him.
  • I wished I had listened to him.
  • He wished he had trusted his friend.
  • We wished we had brought our family on vacation.

Some important points:

  1. Do not use Past perfect tense while you are not expressing some sequence of events. Because in this case, the listener or reader, will be wondering what happened next. In order to make the past perfect tense clear, there is a need for context. In the absence of context, it does not make any sense.
  2. We often use the adverbs already, still, justever, and never with the past perfect.


  • I had called the doctor for an appointment but it was already full.
  • I had never met anyone like him before I met Jack.
  • He had still not reached his home.
  • She had just received the parcel.

Solved Questions on Past Perfect Tense:

Fill in the blanks by choosing the correct word:

Question.1. The principal ______ asked the students to get their report cards signed.

  1. Have
  2. Had
  3. Has
  4. Did

Answer. Option 2 – Had

Question.2. Hari had traveled in train _____ years without ever having to buy tickets.

  1. Since
  2. For
  3. After
  4. Many

Answer. Option 2 – For

Question. 3. I ____ never visited a haunted house until then.

  1. Had
  2. Have
  3. Will
  4. Would

Answer. Option 1 – had

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2 responses to “Uses of Tenses”

  1. Edwin says:

    What is the present perfect form of “He does not smoke”?
    What is the difference between “He does not have to smoke” and “He has not smoked”?

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