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Past perfect Simple - Rules and exercises for intermediate level

Friday, 11 September 2009
Example of the past perfect: They had eaten all the food. Example of the past perfect: They had eaten all the food. “33/365 An empty fridge” by Steven Mileham is licensed under CC BY 2.0

An overview of the past perfect simple tense explains what rules you need to follow when using this tense, with examples and exercises to help you learn. this online lesson in English grammar is designed for intermediate level students.


Form of the past perfect simple

The past perfect simple is used when talking about an action in the past that happened before another action in the past. We often use the past perfect simple with expressions like 'for' or 'since', to describe the order in which past events happened.


Past perfect simple: positive and negative

I / You

She / He / It

We / You / They

'd (had)


seen him before.

finished work at 5 o'clock.

Past perfect simple: question

Where had

I /You

She / He / It

We / You / They

been before?

Past perfect simple: short Answer

Had he already left?

Yes, he had.

No, he hadn't.

Past perfect simple: be careful!

The past perfect is always used with one of the past tenses to indicate the sequence of past actions.

Uses of the past perfect simple.

1. The Past Perfect is used to make clear that one action in the past happened before another action in the past.

  • When I opened the fridge, I noticed that someone had finished the milk for breakfast.
  • They entered the room and hardly recognized it as someone had completely changed the furniture!
  • She went back home because she'd forgotten her keys.
  • When it started raining, she had already got home.
  • When we started the car, we realized that we had run out the petrol.

2. We use the Past Perfect only when it is strictly necessary to clarify which past action happened first. Otherwise we use the Past Simple.
Notice the use of the Past Perfect and the Past Simple in the following sentences:

  • When she got to the party, Tom went home. ( First she arrived, then Tom left)
  • When she got to the party, Tom had gone home. (First Tom left, then she arrived)

To study the past simple click here.
To study the present perfect continuous click here.

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published in Past Perfect Tense
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Last modified on Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:27

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