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Past Perfect Tense



Past Perfect Tense

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Past perfect tense is used to indicate that one action occurred before another action in the past. In other words, past perfect tense indicates the first of the two actions.*

For example,

    When I woke up this morning, my roommate had left already.

    After I had eaten my dinner, I went to see a movie.

    Before I arrived at the theater, the movie had already begun.

Sometimes, when the meaning is clear from context, the simple past tense can be used.

    After I had gone shopping, I stopped at the health spa.

    After I went shopping, I stopped at the health spa.


The most common error with the past perfect is using it where it does not belong.

    When I was young, I had been a cowboy.

    When I was young, I was a cowboy.

    (Incorrect) (No reference to other events)

    (Correct)

    Yesterday the Johnsons had opened their new business.

    Yesterday the Johnsons opened their new business.

    (Incorrect)

    (Correct)

*In some very unusual cases, the past perfect tense can refer to the second past action.

    Before I had finished my homework, the telephone rang.

    (The telephone interrupted me before I finished my homework.)

See also:
Past Perfect (from Englishpage.com)

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Last updated: 15 February, 2010 02:43:16