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Past Perfect Verb Tense in English | English Grammar Lesson

This lesson is part of the series on Verbs in English:

  1. Simple Past Verb Tense (Grammar + Pronunciation)
  2. Present Perfect Verb Tense (Grammar + Pronunciation)
  3. Present Perfect Continuous Verb Tense (Grammar + Pronunciation)
  4. Past Perfect Verb Tense (Grammar + Pronunciation)
  5. Future Verb Tense: “will”, “going to”, “gonna” (Grammar + Pronunciation)

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The perfect tense, which uses:

  • have
  • has, or
  • had

can sometimes be difficult for English language learners to understand.


Past perfect verb tense

We use the past perfect verb tense when talking about a past action that happened before another past action.


“had” + past participle of a verb


  • “By the time Ariana was five years old, she had already learned French and Spanish.”
Here, Ariana learned French and Spanish by age 4. Age 4 and the learning of French and Spanish occurred before she turned 5. Therefore, we use the past perfect: “had learned”
  • “My brother had decided to settle down in New York when he got a job offer in Amsterdam.”
Because we used the past perfect verb tense, we know that if my brother got the job offer on February 1, he decided to settle down in New York before February, perhaps in January.
  • “It was too late — she had already left the office by the time the package arrived.”

The past perfect tense used tells us that the woman’s departure from the office occurred before the arrival of the package, which means that she was not there to get it.

To master the past perfect verb tense:

  1. Understand why we use the perfect tense verbs;
  2. Notice the language when spoken by native speakers;
  3. Practice, practice, practice to train your mind and ears, so that using the past perfect tense becomes natural.

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  1. Thank you 
    This tense is very difficult to me, I have faced a problem to used it correctly ,
    but I will try 
    Here is my sentence :
    My sister had gone by the time her friend called her.
    But I have a question : Is the verb (called) in the past simple or past participle ?

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