Spoken English note

Spoken English Class Note 2

Past Perfect Tense

The past perfect is a verb tense which is used to show that an action took place once or many times before another point in the past.

Past Perfect Forms

The past perfect is formed using had + past participle. Questions are indicated by inverting the subject and had. Negatives are made with not.

  • Statement: You had studied English before you moved to New York.
  • Question: Had you studied English before you moved to New York?
  • Negative: You had not studied English before you moved to New York.

Past Perfect Uses

USE 1- Completed Action Before Something in the Past

The past perfect expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past.


  • had never seen such a beautiful beach before I went to Kauai.
  • I did not have any money because I had lost my wallet.
  • Tony knew Istanbul so well because he had visited the city several times.
  • Had Susan ever studied Thai before she moved to Thailand?
  • She only understood the movie because she had read the book.
  • Kristine had never been to an opera before last night.

USE 2 -Duration Before Something in the Past (Non-Continuous Verbs)

With non-continuous verbs and some non-continuous uses of mixed verbs, we use the past perfect to show that something started in the past and continued up until another action in the past.


  • We had had that car for ten years before it broke down.
  • By the time Alex finished his studies, he had been in London for over eight years.
  • They felt bad about selling the house because they had owned it for more than forty years.

USE 3-Specific Times with the Past Perfect

Unlike with the present perfect, it is possible to use specific time words or phrases with the past perfect. Although this is possible, it is usually not necessary.


She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in 1996.