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Past perfect tense indicates an action that preceded another action in the past.
- The building had burned completely by the time the fire department arrived.
- I had visited London several times before I decided to move there.
Past perfect tense is often used in narratives, with said.
- She said that she had talked to you last night.
- We told Mr. James that you had washed his car.
The pattern for forming past perfect tense is as follows:
- Had + past participle
For regular English verbs, the past participle is the same as the simple past tense form (ending in –ed). However, many irregular past tense verbs exist in English. Some have identical forms for simple past tense and past participle, but others do not. If in doubt as to the past tense forms of a particular verb, consult a dictionary. A table of some common irregular past tense verbs follows.
Common irregular past tense verbs
|Base Form||Simple Past||Past Participle|
|be (irregular present: I am, he/she/it is, you/we/they are)||I/he/she/it was, you/we/they were||been|
|dive||dove or dived||dived|
|prove||proved||proven or proved|
|read (pronounced “reed”)||read (pronounced “red”)||read (pronounced “red”)|
|show||showed||shown or showed|
A few verbs do not change form or pronunciation for simple past or past participle. Common examples are:
To form the negative, place not between had and the past participle. To form a question, move had to the beginning of sentence, before the subject.
- She had taken a wrong turn.
- Had she taken a wrong turn?
- She had not taken a wrong turn.
Past perfect tense is often accompanied by yet, never, and already. These words go between had and the past participle:
- She knew that she had already taken a wrong turn.