The past perfect tense is one of our most requested topics, and this lesson will help you speak English better through improving your understanding of English grammar.

The past perfect tense is used when we want to indicate that an action was completed (or perfected) in the distant past, before something else in the recent (or simple) past occurred. Therefore, the past perfect tense is for talking about something that happened before something else.

The basic formula for the past perfect tense is easy: had + past participle verb. This formula stays the same whether the subject is singular or plural. If you’d like to make the statement negative, simply insert the word not between had and the past participle. You should only use the past perfect tense when trying to convey a sequence of events.

Did you ever get to the chapter about past perfect tenses in your English class? This topic is often left until the very end, usually because it’s at the very end of the book. This is why so many English learners never get around to studying it!

It’s also hard to learn because it is not used that often in spoken English. Its use is practical, however, and English speakers do use the past perfect tense in three specific ways.


This is used most commonly when talking about one event that happened before another one.

For example: “John had called me before I left the office.”


This is used when you talk about something that someone else said.

For example: “John said he had never eaten sushi before he got sick.”


This is used when you speculate about what could happen, what might have happened, or what we wish would happen.

For example: “If I had known you were here, I would have called you.”


Check out our video lesson below for more awesome examples!

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