Past perfect

English grammar – Past perfect

English grammar video lesson here : How and why we use the past perfect. (With practice exercises, answers and my British accent)

How to make the past perfect:
Past perfect form: Subject + had + past participle (+ object)

Why we use the past perfect:
The past perfect is used when you have two past verbs in a sentence and you want to show which one happened first.


The past perfect happened before the past simple:

past perfect —-> past simple —–> now/present ——> future

For example:

“I felt awake in English class because I had drunk a coffee.”

“I felt awake” = Past simple
“I had drunk a coffee.” = Past perfect

So in this case, we know “drunk a coffee” happened first, because it is in the past perfect.

Compare:

“I felt awake in English class because I drank a coffee.”

“I felt awake in English class” = Past simple
“I drank a coffee” = Past simple

In this case, it is not clear which action happened first. Did you drink the coffee before class or during class? The sentence is not clear. That’s why it is good to use the past perfect because it makes it easier to understand.

We use past perfect more in British English than in American English, so you will probably hear it more often if you are studying British English.

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Remember – everyone makes mistakes and English grammar is not easy to learn. Keep trying and you will get better!

Practice exercises

Take a look at these pictures and decide which verb happened first. Check your answers at the bottom of the page. Good luck!

English grammar - Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar – Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar - Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar – Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar - Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar – Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar - Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar – Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar - Past perfect. Which verb happened first?
English grammar – Past perfect. Which verb happened first?

Answers:

  1. “had caught” happened first
  2. “had won” happened first
  3. “had eaten” happened first
  4. “had seen” happened first
  5. “had created” happened first

While you’re here, check out these links to take your English story-telling skills to the next level!

 

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