Your Guide to Past Perfect in English
English Past perfect tense can be a difficult for English learners, especially in conversation. The goal of today’s lesson is to make it easier for you. Hopefully it will be the confidence boost you need to use past perfect the next time you’re talking about more than one action in the past! Don’t forget to schedule a class with LOI if you need a friendly, professional native speaker to practice with. Let’s get to it!
English past perfect tense to talk about…
A completed action before something in the past:
- I had read the book, so I knew what would happen in the movie.
- She had never been to that restaurant until she went on a date there.
- I had never visited Amsterdam before I moved here.
Duration before something in the past (non-continuous verbs):
- He had had the job for 20 years before he got fired.
- By the time he left, he had been in Thailand for 3 months.
- He had felt unhappy for months before he quit his job.
Good to Know For using English past perfect tense:
regular past participles end with -ed, but here are some common irregulars:
- bite -> bitten • see -> seen
- blow -> blown • show -> shown
- break -> broken • sing -> sung
- eat -> eaten • speak -> spoken
- give -> given • take -> taken
- know -> known • tear -> torn
- overcome -> overcome • wake -> woken
- ride -> ridden • wear -> worn
- run -> run • write -> written
Watch and Learn About English past perfect tense:
Complete the sentences with the correct use of English past perfect tense in the comments section.
- When I arrived at the cinema, the film (start).
- She (sing) a few times before she tried out for the play.
- We (be) in Taiwan for a year before we moved away.
- Before he tried today, he (ride) a bike one time.
- ___ you guys (meet) before you went on your first date?
- He didn’t arrive until after you (leave).
- I (have) that car for 10 years before it broke down.
- The shark (bite) a few people before it bit her.
Now, fill in the blanks below with English past perfect tense. When you’ve finished, start the video at 1:00 to check your answers.
- A woman in Paris was on her way to go shopping, but she ___ _________(forget) her coat. went back to get it.
- When she ___ ______(get) her coat the phone ___ ____(ring), so she ___ _______(stop) to answer it, and talked for a couple of minutes.
- While the woman was on the phone, Daisy was rehearsing for a performance at the Paris Opera House. While she was rehearsing, the woman (off the phone now) ___ ____(go) outside to get a taxi.
- Now, a taxi driver ___ ______(drop) off a fare earlier and ___ _______(stop) to get a cup of coffee, and all the while Daisy was rehearsing.
- This cab driver, who dropped off the earlier fare and ___ _______(stop) to get the cup of coffee, and picked up the lady who was going shopping and ___ ______(miss) getting the earlier cab.
- The taxi had to stop for a man crossing the street who ___ ____(leave) work five minutes later than he normally did because he forgot to set his alarm.
- While that man, late for work, was crossing the street, Daisy ___ ________(finish) rehearsal and was taking a shower.
- While Daisy was showering, the taxi was waiting outside a boutique for the woman to pick up a package, which _____ ____(not/be) wrapped yet because the girl that was supposed to wrap it ___ ______(break) up with her boyfriend the night before and forgot.
- The delivery truck pulled away and the taxi was able to move, while Daisy, the last to be dressed, waited for one of her friends who ___ ______(break) a shoelace.
- And if only one thing ___ ________(happen) differently-if that shoelace _____ ______(not/break), or that delivery truck ___ _____(move) moments earlier, or that package ___ ____(be) wrapped and ready because the girl _____ ______(not/break) up with her boyfriend, or that man ___ ____(set) his alarm and got up five minutes earlier, or that taxi driver _____ _______(not/stop) for that cup of coffee, or that woman ___ __________(remember) her coat and got into an earlier cab-Daisy and her friend would have crossed the street, and the taxi would have driven by.
Great work! Can’t get enough? Click here for another fun past perfect post!