How do we use the Past Perfect Tense?
The past perfect tense expresses action in the past before another action in the past. This is the past in the past.
- The train left at 9am. We arrived at 9.15am. When we arrived, the train had left.
|The train had left when we arrived.|
|Train leaves in past at 9am.|
|We arrive in past at 9.15am.|
Look at some more examples:
- I wasn't hungry. I had just eaten.
- They were hungry. They had not eaten for five hours.
- I didn't know who he was. I had never seen him before.
- "Mary wasn't at home when I arrived."
"Really? Where had she gone?"
You can sometimes think of the past perfect tense like the present perfect tense, but instead of the time being now the time is past.
|past perfect tense||present perfect tense|
|had | |
|have | |
| || |
For example, imagine that you arrive at the station at 9.15am. The stationmaster says to you:
- "You are too late. The train has left."
Later, you tell your friends:
- "We were too late. The train had left."
We often use the past perfect tense in reported speech after verbs like said, told, asked, thought, wondered:
Look at these examples:
- He told us that the train had left.
- I thought I had met her before, but I was wrong.
- He explained that he had closed the window because of the rain.
- I wondered if I had been there before.
- I asked them why they had not finished.