Past Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense verbs are formed with the helping verb had and the verb's past participle. 

They show an action that came before another action in the past. 

The team had won before I arrived.

My sister had just left when we walked in the door.

Although this verb tense shows an action that came before another action in the past, that other action does not have to be stated in the sentence. 

It can simply be implied. 

For instance, these sentences are still made with the past perfect verb tense although the past action is not stated like it is in the sentences above.

The team had won

My sister had just left.

What is a perfect tense?

Every verb has three perfect tenses. 

The three perfect tenses are formed with the helping verbs have, has, had, will and shall and the past participle of the verb. 

1. Present Perfect Verbs are formed with the helping verbs has and have.

2. Past Perfect Verbs are formed with the helping verb had.

3. Future Perfect Verbs are formed with the helping verbs will have and shall have.

Past Participles

You need to know what a past participle is because past perfect verbs are formed using a verb's past participle. 

Are you ready to learn about past participles? Great!

Every verb has what are called four principal parts

We can take any verb and break it into these parts. Past participles are simply one of those parts of a verb.

Here's a chart showing you some examples of verbs broken into their principal parts.

Present Present Participle Past Past Participle
kick (is) kicking kicked (have) kicked
win (is) winning won (have) won
walk (is) walking walk (have) walked

If you'd like to learn more about past participles, click here.

Forming the Past Perfect Tense

So, to form the past perfect verb tense, just slap a had in front of the past participle of the verb.

had + Past Participle arrow Past Perfect
had + learned arrow had learned
had + won arrow had won
had + graduated arrow had graduated

If you'd like to teach or learn grammar the easy way—with sentence diagrams—check out our Get Smart Grammar Program.

It starts from the very beginning and teaches you grammar and sentence diagramming in easy, bite-size lessons. 

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