ReadingESL stories and readings in English for ESL learners

Past Perfect Verb Tense

The past perfect tense is used to talk about actions in the past that ended before a certain time.

It is also used when you are talking about two actions that occurred in the past.  It is used to show which action happened first. 


Form (what it looks like):

Affirmative statements Negative statements   Questions
subject + had + past participle subject + had + not + past participle
or subject + hadn't + past participle
  had + subject + past participle
I had driven for half an hour before I realized I was lost.

You had driven for half an hour....
He had driven for half an hour....
She had driven for half an hour....

We had driven for half an hour...
They had driven for half an hour.... 
I had not driven in downtown Toronto before.

I hadn't driven in....

He hadn't driven in....
She hadn't driven in.....

We hadn't driven in....
They hadn't driven in.....  
city street Had you driven there before?
Yes, I had.
No, I hadn't

How long had they driven before they realized they were lost?
They had driven for half an hour before....

Had you not driven there before?
Hadn't you driven there before?
Yes, we had.
No, we hadn't



How do you make the past participle of a regular verb?... it depends on what letter the verb ends with.

If the verb ends with.... then.... example forms other verbs
e just add d tying shoe laces to tie

I tied my shoe laces.
You tied your shoelaces.
He tied his shoelaces.

We tied our shoes.
They tied their shoes.

believe - believed
blame - blamed
care - cared
hope - hoped
live - lived
love - loved
move - moved
share - shared
trade - traded
wave - waved
consonant + y change y to i,
then add ed
two girls studying together to study

I studied with her.
She studied with you.

We studied together.
They studied together.
bury - buried
carry - carried
cry - cried
dry - dried
fry - fried
pry - pried
hurry - hurried
one vowel + x, w or y add ed guitar player on a stage
photo by Alida Salinas
to play

I played the guitar.
You played the guitar.
She played the guitar.

We played the guitar.
They played the guitar.
fix - fixed
mix - mixed
tax - taxed

mow - mowed
snow - snowed
tow - towed

pray - prayed
stay - stayed
stray - strayed
one vowel + consonant
stressed last syllable
double the consonant
then add
chopping green beans on a wood cutting board
'Chopping' by diathesis, from flickr
to chop

I chopped the beans.
You chopped the beans.
He chopped the beans.

We chopped the beans.
They chopped the beans.

clap - clapped
clip - clipped
dip - dipped
hop - hopped
shop - shopped
stop - stopped
one vowel + consonant
unstressed last syllable
add ed using a screwdriver to turn a screw to tighten

I tightened the screws.
You tightened the screws.
He tightened the screws.

We tightened the screws.
They tightened the screws.
happen - happened
listen - listened
open - opened
tighten - tightened
visit - visited
all other verbs add ed peeling a banana to peel  (2 vowels + consonant)

I peeled bananas.
You peeled the banana.
She peeled bananas.

We peeled bananas.
They peeled bananas.
climb - climbed
finish - finished
laugh - laughed
march - marched
melt - melted
rain - rained
wait - waited



Using the Past Perfect:

1. for an action that finished at a specific time in the past

police on horseback a group of friends eating dessert at a restaurant
'Cafeteria Friends # 1' by pattie 74_99, from flickr
audience in a movie theater
'movie about to start' by Susan NYC, from flickr
The burglar had escaped by the time the police arrived. We had finished eating lunch by noon. The movie had ended by midnight.


2. for an action that finished before another past action

paper money in a wallet
'Day 174 - Wad of cash' by jackhynes, from flickr
a boy eating food
'Eating Dinner in the Backyard' by Michael Bentley, flickr
two soccer players trying to kick a ball
'Duncan Soccer Game 092207 - 22-6x9' by Paul-W, from flickr
Shawn couldn't buy a cup of coffee because he had forgotten his wallet at home. Jason had already eaten dinner by the time his mother came home. The soccer game had just ended when it began to rain.


3. to show duration of a an action before another event in the past

a house for sale
'For Sale' by todmaffin, from flickr
Parliament buildings in Ottawa
'Colino do Parlamento/Parliament Hill' by Marcio Cabral de Moura
blue running shoes
He had owned his house for 20 years before he sold it. Martina had wanted to visit Ottawa for a long time before she finally got the opportunity. Bill had needed new shoes for a couple of months before he was able to afford to buy some.


4. in conditional sentences (3rd conditional)

 two people, one on a phone, the other on a laptop
'Day 302/365.v2' by Perfecto Insecto, from flickr
an interview
'P1000818' by bpsusf, from flickr
runners running a race on a road
'2007 Toronto Marathon' by Ben Lawson, from flickr
If I had known that you were at home, I would have called you sooner. If Matthew had applied for the job, he might have got it. If Leah hadn't been sick, she would have run the marathon last week-end.


5. sometimes when we report what people said, thought or believed

cars at a gas station
'Gas was 86.9/litre yesterday, wow!' by roland, from flickr
a woman working on a laptop
'Mother of a Sunday' by delphwynd, from flickr
a woman walking in a snowstorm
'Snowstorm' by valcomp, from flickr
Theo said that he had already put gas in the car. I thought you said that you hadn't finished your essay. Melissa said that it had been snowing earlier in the day.


6. with the word wish for wishes or desires in the past