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The Past Perfect Simple Tense

Useful Tip

Time Expressions in the Past Perfect Simple

The time expressions already, for, since, and yet may be used in the past perfect simple, as
they are in the present perfect simple. Remember the following rules for using other time
expressions:

 Use after, as soon as, the moment that, until before using the past perfect simple.
Ex: After she had moved out, I found her notes./ I didn’t say anything until she had
finishedtalking.
 Use before, when, by the time before the past simple:
Ex. Before I knew it, she had run out the door. / By the time he phoned her, she had found
someone new.
The past perfect simple is used to describe one action that happened before another action in
the past.

In many cases a complete sentence is written in two parts with two different tenses:

1. The past perfect simple, to refer to the action that happened first or earlier
2. The past simple to refer to the action that happened second or later
Sometimes the past perfect simple is used on its own and the action that took place afterwards
is understood.

1. After Sofie had finished her work, she went to lunch.


(First she finished her work and then she went to eat lunch.)
2. I washed the floor when the painter had gone.
(First the painter left and then I washed the floor.)
3. Harold had known about it for a while.
(First he knew about it, then others knew about it)
The past perfect simple tense is formed by using the auxiliary verb had together with the V3
(past participle). The V3 (past participle) form of a regular verb looks just like a regular verb in
the past simple:

1. walk > walked / study > studied / stop > stopped / create > created
There are quite a few irregular verbs in English though. It pays to memorize them.
had +Verb(V3)
Subject Rest of Sentence
(Past Participle)

had met him before he became famous


I / You / We / They
He / She / It
had lived here for three years by the time we met

Note: The order of phrases may be switched, but the meaning will stay the same.

1. By the time Doris got to the party, everyone had gone home.
2. Everyone had gone home by the time Doris had got to the party.
Note: Had Had – A verb combination that often causes confusion in the past perfect simple is
had had. Ex. I had had enough to eat but I wanted dessert anyway. The first had is the
auxiliary (or helping) verb and the second had is the V3 (or past participle) of the main verb to
have. It means that even though I ate enough, I wanted dessert after that. It may look strange,
but it is correct.

Contractions in the Past Perfect Simple


Punctuation Tip

When you begin a sentence with a time expression, put a comma (,) after the first part of the
sentence.

We often contract the subject (the person or thing that had done the action) and had:

1. I had > I’d – After I’d used the phone, I paid the bill.
2. He had > He’d / She has > She’d / It has > It’d – It’d happened so quickly, I didn’t notice.
3. We had > We’d / You have > You’d /They are > They’d – We’d just gotten home, when
we heard the blast outside.

Negative Sentences in the Past Perfect Simple Tense


When creating negative sentences, we use the auxiliary verbs hadn’t (had not) together with
the V3 (past participle) form of the verb. You can also create a negative sentence by using the
auxiliary verb had with the time expression never and then the V3.
Verb in V3
Subject Auxillery Verb Rest of Sentence
(Past Participle)

hadn’t (had not) driven a car before then


I / You / We / They
He / She / It
had never driven a car before then

1. I had not eaten at that restaurant before today.


2. Samantha hadn’t had time to explain her side of the story.
3. My friends hadn’t ever gone to France.
4. My friends had never gone to the USA either.

Yes/No Questions in the Past Perfect Simple


To create a question that will be answered with a yes or no, start the question with Had (Hadn’t
for a negative question) then add a subject (the person or thing that had done the action)
followed by the V3 (Past Participle) form of the verb and only then add the rest of the sentence.

Verb in V3
Auxiliary Verb Subject Rest of Sentence
(Past Participle)

I / you / we / they
Had had time to rehearse you’re the song
he / she / it

Had he / she / it eaten there before

1. Had you cleaned up the mess by the time they came home?
2. Had Adam ever spoken to the CEO before he was fired?

Wh-Questions in the Past Perfect Simple


Wh- questions are questions that require more information in their answers. Typical wh- words
are what, where, when, why, who, how, how many, how much.

To create a wh-question, start with the wh-word, then add had, then the subject (a person or
thing that had done the action), followed by the V3 (Past Participle) form of the verb and only
then add the rest of the sentence.

Verb in V3
Wh- Auxiliary
Subject (Past Rest of Sentence
Word Verb
Participle)

before leaving
What had taught
education
I / you / we /
they
he / she / it
Why had changed the subject

1. What had they said that made him so angry?


2. Why had he agreed to work for that salary?
3. How much had he drunk before you got to him?

Tag Questions in the Past Perfect Simple


Tag questions are those short questions that are tagged onto the end of a sentence. They are
used just to make sure that the person you’re talking to understood what you meant or to
emphasize what you said.

They’re formed by writing a regular sentence in the past perfect simple, then by adding hadn’t
and a pronoun (I, you, we, they, he, she, it) and a question mark.

1. John had known about the cancer for a couple of years, hadn’t he?
2. They had been in business together, hadn’t they?
You may also add a positive tag when you’re using a negative sentence.

1. Jennifer hadn’t spoken to you about it, had she?


2. They had never eaten a proper Indian meal, had they?
Questions in the going to-future
1. Questions without question words in the going
to-future

going Auxiliary
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject
to (+ n't)

going Yes, I am.


Are you watch TV tonight?
to No, I am not.

Yes, she is.


going a book over
Is Hillary read No, she is not.
to the weekend?
No, she isn't.

2. Questions with question words in the going to-


future

Question going
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word to

going your I am going to spend


Where are you spend
to holidays? my holidays in Italy.

going He is going to have


What is Frank have for dinner?
to a pizza.
► Use is with the 3rd person singular (he, she, it), am with the 1st person
singular (I) and in all other persons are.

Questions in the will-future


1 Questions without question words in the will-
future

Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject Auxiliary (+ n't)

Yes, I will.
Will you lend him the book? No, I will not.
No, I won't.

Yes, she will.


Will Jane arrive on time? No, she will not.
No, she won't.

2. Questions with question words in the will-future

Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

me the e- I will send you the e-mail


When will you send
mail? tonight.
Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

for the We will need cola,


What will we need
party? sandwiches and crisps.

► Use will every time regardless the subject.

The verb is used in the infinitive.

Here's the positive form (it's just 'will' + infinitive):

 I will meet him later (I'll ..)


 You will come (you'll..)
 It will rain tomorrow (it'll)
 She will be late (she'll..)
 He will help us later (he'll..)
 We will get married in September (we'll)
 They will cook dinner (they'll..)

Next, here's the negative form (just add 'not' - remember will not = won't):

 I will not go (I won't ..)


 You will not be late (you won't ..)
 It will not snow tomorrow (it won't..)
 She will not get the job (she won't..)
 He will not pass the exam (he won't ..)
 We will not come (we won't..)
 They will not stop (they won't ..)

Here's an exercise about the negative future simple

Finally, here's the question:


'yes / no' questions:

 Will I go?
 Will you come early?
 Will it be cold?
 Will she dance?
 Will he arrive soon?
 Will we cook?
 Will they leave?

'wh' questions:

 Where will I go?


 Why will you come early?
 When will it be cold?
 Who will she dance with?
 What time will he arrive?
 What will we cook?
 When will they leave?

Questions in the Simple Present,


Questions with do, does
1. Questions without question words in Simple
Present

Auxiliary
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject
(+ n't)
Auxiliary
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject
(+ n't)

Yes, I do.
Do you read books?
No, I don't.

Yes, he does.
Does Peter play football?
No, he doesn't.

2. Questions with question words in Simple


Present

Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

on your I play games on my


What do you play
computer? computer.

your She goes to work at 6


When does go to work?
mother o'clock.

I meet them at the


Where do you meet your friends?
bus stop.
Questions in the Simple Past,
Questions withdid
1. Questions without question words in Simple
Past

Auxiliary (+
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject
n't)

Yes, he did.
Did Max play football?
No, he didn't.

the film Yes, I did.


Did you watch
yesterday? No, I didn't.

BUT:

to be Subject Rest Yes/No Subject Auxiliary (+ n't)

Yes, I was.
Were you in Leipzig last week?
No, I wasn't.

2. Questions with question words in Simple Past

Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word
Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

yesterday I played computer


What did you play
evening? games.

She met him


When did she meet her boyfriend?
yesterday.

Where did they go after the match? They went to a café.

BUT:

Question word to be Subject Rest Answer

Where were you yesterday? I was at the cinema.


Questions in the Present
Progressive
1. Questions without question words in the Present
Progressive

Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject Auxiliary (+ n't)

Yes, they are.


Are they writing e-mails? No, they are not.
No, they aren't.

Yes, he is.
Is Peter playing football? No, he is not.
No, he isn't.

Yes, they are.


Are they singing a song? No, they are not.
No, they aren't.

2 Questions with question words in the Present


Progressive

Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

What are you doing right now?


I am working on my
Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

computer.

Where is Tyler going? He is going to the pet shop.

They are carrying the


the buckets
Why are they carrying
buckets? because they want to clean
their bikes.

► Use is with the 3rd person singular (he, she, it), am with the 1st person
singular (I) and in all other persons are.

Add -ing to the infinitive.

Here is how we make the positive:

Positive Positive Short Form

I am sleeping I'm sleeping

you are sleeping you're sleeping

he is sleeping he's sleeping


she is sleeping she's sleeping

it is sleeping it's sleeping

we are sleeping we're sleeping

they are sleeping they're sleeping

We can make the negative by adding 'not':

Negative Negative Short Form

I am not sleeping I'm not sleeping

you are not playing you aren't playing

he is not reading he isn't reading

she is not working she isn't working

it is not raining it isn't raining


we are not cooking we aren't cooking

they are not listening they aren't listening

Practise making the positive and the negative forms (exercise 1)


Practise making the positive and the negative forms (exercise 2)

Questions are also really, really easy. Just like we made the question with 'be' in
the present simple, here we also put 'am', 'is', or 'are' before the subject to make
a 'yes / no' question:

Yes / No Questions

am I eating chocolate ?

are you studying now ?

is he working ?

is she doing her homework ?

is it raining ?

are we meeting at six ?


are they coming ?

For 'wh' questions, just put the question word at the front:

Wh Questions

Why am I eating chocolate ?

What are you studying now ?

When is he working ?

What is she doing ?

Why is it raining ?

Who are we meeting ?

How are they travelling ?


Questions in the Present Perfect
1. Questions without question words in the Present
Perfect

Auxiliary (+
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject
n't)

Yes, I have.
the
Have you done No, I have not.
shopping?
No, I haven't.

Yes, she has.


Has Jane played basketball? No, she has not.
No, she hasn't.

Yes, they have.


Have they been in Canada? No, they have not.
No, they haven't.

2. Questions with question words in the Present


Perfect

Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

I have tried to
to download
How often have you tried download the file
the file?
three times.
Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

They have lived in


How long have they lived in Ottawa?
Ottawa since 2009.

He has been at
Where has he been?
home.

(Also, here's some help if you are not sure how to pronounce '-ed' at the end of
a verb).

Positive Positive Short Form

I have played I've played

you have worked you've worked

he has written he's written

she has walked she's walked

it has rained it's rained

we have travelled we've travelled


they have studied they've studied

Try an exercise about the positive form here

The negative is really simple too. Just put 'not' after 'have' or 'has':

Negative Negative Short Form

I have not eaten breakfast today I haven't eaten

you have not been to Asia you haven't been

he has not seen the new film he hasn't seen

she has not played tennis she hasn't played

it has not snowed this winter it hasn't snowed

we have not slept all night we haven't slept

they have not tried the food they haven't tried

Try an exercise about the negative form here

To make a question, put 'have' or 'has' in front of the subject:


'Yes / No' Questions

have I missed the bus?

have you visited London?

has he worked as a waiter before?

has she met John?

has it been cold this week?

have we arrived too early?

have they studied English grammar before?

As you can imagine, for 'wh' questions, we just put the question word before 'have'
or 'has':

'Wh' Questions

where have I left my umbrella?


what have you done today?

why has he gone already?

where has she been in the UK?

why has it rained so much this summer?

what have we done?

where have they learned English before?

► Use has with the 3rd person singular (he, she, it) and in all other persons have.

Use the verb in the past participle:

 regular verbs: infinitive + -ed

 irregular verbs: 3rd column of the table of the irregular verbs


Questions in the Past Progressive
1. Questions without question words in the Past
Progressive

Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Yes/No Subject Auxiliary (+ n't)

Yes, I was.
Were you reading books? No, I was not.
No, I wasn't.

Yes, he was.
Was Peter playing football? No, he was not.
No, he wasn't.

Yes, they were.


Were they singing a song? No, they were not.
No, they weren't.

2. Questions with question words in the Past


Progressive

Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word
Question
Auxiliary Subject Verb Rest Answer
word

yesterday I was working on my


What were you doing
evening? computer.

at ten last She was going to a


Where was Diana going
night? concert.

They were carrying the


buckets
Why were they carrying the buckets?
because they wanted to
clean the car.

► Use was with the 1st and 3rd person singular (I, he, she, it) and in all other
persons were.

Add -ing to the infinitive.

The Past Continuous


(or past progressive tense)

How can we make the past continuous? Firstly, check that you know how to make
the past simple with 'be' (subject + was / were). Then just add verb-ing.
(Click here for practice on how to USE the past continuous)

Here's the positive form:


 I was sleeping
 you were working
 he was coming
 she was reading 'War and Peace'
 it was raining
 we were shopping
 they were watching a film

Next, here's the negative - it's very easy, just add 'not':

 I was not (wasn't) sleeping


 you were not (weren't) working
 he was not (wasn't) coming
 she was not (wasn't) reading 'War and Peace'
 it was not (wasn't) raining
 we were not (weren't) shopping
 they were not (weren't) watching a film

Here's an exercise about the positive and negative verb forms

And, just like the past simple with 'be', to make a 'yes / no' question, put 'was
/ were' in front of the subject:

 Was I listening?
 Were you working?
 Was she working?
 Was he living in Paris at the time?
 Was it snowing when you arrived?
 Were we eating?
 Were they studying?

To make a 'wh' question (of course) put the question word at the beginning:

 Why was I working?


 Where were you living?
 How was she travelling?
 Where was he going?
 Why was it snowing in the summer?
 What were we eating?
 Why were they studying?