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Past Perfect Tense

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.
  • 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 FormSimple PastPast Participle
be (irregular present: I am, he/she/it is, you/we/they are)I/he/she/it was, you/we/they werebeen
beatbeatbeaten
becomebecamebecome
beginbeganbegun
bendbentbent
bitebitbitten
bleedbledbled
blowblewblown
breakbrokebroken
bringbroughtbrought
buildbuiltbuilt
buyboughtbought
comecamecome
catchcaughtcaught
choosechosechosen
digdugdug
divedove or diveddived
dodiddone
drawdrewdrawn
drinkdrankdrunk
drivedrovedriven
eatateeaten
fallfellfallen
feedfedfed
feelfeltfelt
findfoundfound
flyflewflown
forbidforbadeforbidden
freezefrozefrozen
getgotgotten
givegavegiven
gowentgone
growgrewgrown
hanghunghung
havehadhad
keepkeptkept
knowknewknown
laylaidlaid
leadledled
lielaylain
leaveleftleft
loselostlost
makemademade
meanmeantmeant
meetmetmet
paypaidpaid
proveprovedproven or proved
read (pronounced “reed”)read (pronounced “red”)read (pronounced “red”)
rideroderidden
riseroserisen
runranrun
saysaidsaid
seesawseen
sellsoldsold
sendsentsent
shakeshookshaken
shootshotshot
showshowedshown or showed
shrinkshrankshrunk
singsangsung
sitsatsat
sleepsleptslept
speakspokespoken
spendspentspent
springsprangsprung
standstoodstood
stealstolestolen
stinkstankstunk
strikestruckstruck
swearsworesworn
sweepsweptswept
swimswamswum
swingswungswung
teachtaughttaught
taketooktaken
teartoretorn
telltoldtold
thinkthoughtthought
throwthrewthrown
wearworeworn
winwonwon
writewrotewritten

A few verbs do not change form or pronunciation for simple past or past participle. Common examples are:

betputcostquitcut
sethitshuthurtspread
let

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.

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