Past Perfect Summery

Past Perfect Diagram

We use the Past Perfect for an action which was completed before a special point of time in the past.


We often use the Past Perfect together with the Simple Past. The action which was completed before the other action began is put into Past Perfect.


Key Words

There are no specific key words for the Past Perfect, however be aware that this tense is often combined with the Simple Past tense.

first action (completed before the second one began): Past Perfect
second action: Simple Past


Past Perfect Use

We use the past perfect tense fairly often in English.

When two past actions are combined – the first action, which was completed before the second one began, is put into Past Perfect.

1: A completed action before something else in the past.

  • When we arrived, the film had started. (= first the film started, then later we arrived)

2: To explain or give a reason for something in the past.

  • I‘d eaten dinner so I wasn’t hungry.
  • It had snowed during the night, so the bus didn’t arrive.

3: Stative verbs only: something that started in the past and continued up to another action in the past.

  • When he graduated, he had been in London for six years.(= he arrived in London six years before he graduated and lived there continuously until he graduated, or even longer)

4: As part of the third conditional.

  • If I had known you were ill, I would have visited you.