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Speech, tenses & voices

Note 67 – The past perfect tense

For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link – If you would prefer to dive straight into note 67, then please read on…

The past perfect tense

Yesterday I blogged about the present perfect tense so today it felt right to cover the past perfect tense, which again I have touched upon in some previous blogs. John Seely in his book The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation explains that past perfect is a verb tense formed by combining the past tense of the verb to have i.e. ‘had’, with the past participle of the main verb.

Had + past participle

Some examples:

  1. She had eaten too much cake.
  2. By midnight, I had ironed all the clothes in the basket.
  3. Before this job, Tom had worked at six different companies.
  4. Mandy fell out with Christopher because she had lied to him.

You will see from my examples that there are many uses of the past perfect tense.  John Seely (The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation ) would describe example 1 as showing “background information” and 2 as referring to “an action in the past that continues up to, or relates to, a single point in the past” in this case, midnight.  Example 3 shows a contrast between two points in the past that happened at different times (one before the other), whereas 4 is something John Seely would describe as “a casual link between two events in the past”.

Please feel free to comment on this blog if you wish and as mentioned before I am happy to take requests on the subject of grammar/punctuationmmar/writing tips or similar.  Hope you have enjoyed your day.

Until tomorrow…


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Reference list:

John Seely  The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


2 thoughts on “Note 67 – The past perfect tense

  1. The past perfect is a great tense for putting the past in perspective. For example we can say how something happened in the past as a result of something happening before that:
    We were late for class because the train had arrived late.
    But we only use the past perfect when it is relative to another past moment that was chronologically later in time. In the example above if we wish to explain more about the train journey then we would use the past simple or past continuous:
    The train normally leaves at 7.45am but today it arrived at 8.00am so we were 15 minutes later than normal

    Posted by catalian | December 6, 2011, 10:31 pm

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