grammar past perfectOne of our Facebook fans, Selma, asked about the use of had. More specifically, she wanted to know how to use the past perfect tense.

What’s past perfect? It is formed by adding had to the past participle. Here are a few examples:

I had done all my homework when she called me.

I didn’t get any coffee for you at Starbucks because you hadn’t asked me to.

We had studied hard, so we did well on the exam.

What do you notice about all of these sentences? What verbs do you see in each sentence other than past perfect? Called, did, and get are all simple past verbs.

What is the time relationship between the action of the past perfect verb to the action of the simple past verb? For example, in the first sentence, what is the relationship between had done and called?

The past perfect action happened before the simple past action. I had done my homework before she called me.

You can think of past perfect as the “past of the past”. It is commonly used to express that one past event occurred before another.

If you had not understood past perfect before you read this, I hope you understand it now!


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