The past of the past……
Let’s have a look at a sentence in the simple past.
John ate breakfast, had a shower, said goodbye to his family and arrived at work.
Notice the order of the actions happening
- eat breakfast
- have a shower
- said goodbye to his family
- arrived at work
Now, what if we wanted to start the story at 4 but still mention 3, 2, and 1? Use the past perfect of course!
Before John arrived at work he had eaten breakfast, had a shower, and said goodbye to his family.
Notice that the order of the actions is the same as the other sentence.
The form of the past perfect
Subject + had + V3 (past participle)
I had eaten breakfast..
I hadn’t eaten breakfast..
Had you eaten breakfast..?
Adverbs with past perfect
after, before, ever, never, once, three times, yet, up until
- I left the house after I had taken a shower
- I had taken a shower before I left the house
- It was the best shower I had ever had!
- I had never had a shower before then
- Once I had taken a shower I left the house
- I had taken a shower 3 times before I left the house
- It was 10 am and I hadn’t left my house yet
- I had lived in China until my 30th Birthday, then I moved to Japan
recently, just and lately
- I had just taken a shower so my hair was still wet
- I had recently taken a shower so I felt fresh
- I hadn’t taken a shower lately so I smelt bad
for / since
- I had already lived in China for 5 years when I moved to Japan
- I had already lived in China since 2013 when I moved to Japan
Note* – When
When we want to describe how long a situation lasted for before a point in the past make sure to use when!
When I moved to Japan, I had already lived in China for 3 years
When do we use the past perfect?
First of all, only use it when we are already talking about a past situation.
I had eaten breakfast this morning – Incorrect
I had eaten breakfast so I didn’t feel hungry – Correct
If it is a single event in the past that is finished, we must use past simple tense.
I ate breakfast this morning – Correct
Remember it is useful for telling stories, especially when adding background events.
He felt so tired because he had worked overtime all week
The ground was wet because it had rained the night before