Past Perfect Tense Formula, Rules, and Uses with Examples

Past Perfect Tense Formula and Examples

The past perfect tense, also known as the pluperfect, is made with the helping verb “had” and the past participle of the main verb. The formula of past perfect tense doesn’t change with the subject if it is singular or plural.

Must Read: Present Perfect Tense

Past Perfect Tense Positive Sentences

Past Perfect Tense Formula, Rules, and Uses with Examples

Structure: Subject + had + past participle

Past Perfect Tense Positive Sentences Examples

  • I had seen him before.
  • He had just got to the office when I saw him.
  •  I had known her for two years.
  • He had already eaten.
  • They had already left when we reached their home.
  • I had taught at the primary level for ten years before I got the promotion.
  • When the President had finished his speech, the people clapped loudly.

Past Perfect Tense Negative Sentences

Inserting the word not or never after had and before the main verb will make the past perfect tense negative. Had and not are often contracted as hadn’t.

Structure: Subject + had + not + Past Participle

Past Perfect Tense Negative Sentences Examples

  • I hadn’t seen him before.
  • I hadn’t written the letter before he came.
  • She hadn’t cleaned the kitchen for three days.
  • She hadn’t flown before.
  • They hadn’t done their homework before midnight.
  • We hadn’t seen him when we got there.
  • Unfortunately, I had not taken my laptop before I left for the office.

Related: Future Perfect Tense

Note: It doesn’t matter if we reverse the order of the clauses; the past perfect tense always refers to an earlier action.

Past Perfect Tense Interrogative Sentences

To make interrogative sentences in the past perfect tense, insert the verb had before the subject.

Structure: Had + Subject + Past Participle

Past Perfect Tense Interrogative Sentences Examples

  • Had she left when he came?
  • Had you had your homework before coming to school?
  • Had she cooked dinner before her mother got back from work?
  • Whom had you sent an email to?

Uses and Rules of Past Perfect Tense with Examples

We often used the simple past tense to describe actions that were completed in the past. But if we want to say what happened before that time, we use the past perfect tense. Below are some common uses of the past perfect tense with examples.

In reality, the past perfect tense is the past of the past. It expresses an action before a particular time in the past. To clarify which action happened first, we use the past perfect in one clause and the past simple in the other clause.


  • By the time they arrived, the plane had taken off. (the plane took off first, and then they arrived.)
  • She had cleaned the home before her mother got home.
  • I invited him to lunch, but he said no because he had already eaten.
  • The children were not hungry at 9 p.m. They had already eaten.
  • She had just put the phone down when someone knocked at the door.
  • Someone stole my laptop because I had forgotten to lock the room.

When we add the length of time to the past perfect tense, it means the same as the past continuous tense.

i.e., past perfect + length of time


  • My father was exhausted because he had been working hard since 8:00 (Past perfect Continuous)
  • My father was exhausted because he had worked since 8:00 (Past Perfect)

These two sentences describe the same concept. But we can’t do this with every verb.

When we want to imply a preceding action, it is indicated using the following words.

Yet, just, recently, already, ever, never, so far, before/by the time, after, etc.


  • The English teacher was excellent; I had never met anyone like him before.
  • He had returned from school just then.
  • My mother had already cooked the food.
  • I had completed the work before my mother got home.
  • We had finished the dinner before she came.
  • After I had done the paper, I stopped at a rickshaw to take me home.
  • She had purchased the book by the time she told me.
  • When we arrived, she hadn’t finished dressing yet.

This tense is used for unfulfilled actions in the past.


  • If I had worked hard, I would have passed.
  • If she had left before, she would not have missed the train
  • If she had loved, she wouldn’t have been so cruel.

It is also used for unfulfilled wishes in the past.


  • I wish my son had won the prize.
  • She wishes (that) she had eaten so much.

The past perfect tense uses the following verbs to indicate the action that did not take place.

Hope, think, suppose, expect, mean, want


  •      I had wanted to help my father.

Difference Between Past Perfect and Simple Past Tense

The past perfect and past simple often have little or no difference in usage. For example

  • Past Perfect: I drank the juice that she had made.
  • Past Simple: I drank the juice that she made.
  • Past Perfect: I had read an exciting story before going to bed.
  • Past Simple: I read an interesting story before going to bed.

When it is necessary to emphasize the completion of one action before another rather than the two of them happening simultaneously, the past perfect should be used.


  • Hardly he left when his friends arrived

This sentence describes two completed past actions, but we cannot say which one happened first. Either he left first, then his friends arrived, or else his friends arrived, and then he left.

  • Hardly had he left when his friends arrived. (he first left, then his friends arrived.)
  • The match had ended when we turned on the TV.

Past Perfect Tense Examples Sentences in English  

  • How many homes had he lived in?
  • After she had won the election, she made a speech.
  • She had cooked the meal before I got back from school.
  • Until that night, I had never thought about taking admission to that college.
  • We had heard they were planning to move to New York.
  • Had you bought that book?
  • We had not visited the library by that day.
  • When had you written this letter?
  • Had you washed the clothes before the evening?
  • They had sold their house before they left for the UK.
  • We had cleaned the offices before the officers came.
  • They had reached home before the snow began to fall.
  • Where had they driven to for the weekend?

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