Past perfect


It is actually a marshmallow mushroom, but it sure looks like a marshmallow.

The fire had died out by the time I found the marshmallows.

The past perfect tense is a tense that we don’t use very often. We use it most when people forget something that happened in their story and they want to add it now.

How to use past perfect

We use the past perfect tense to show the relationship between two events in the past. Past perfect shows which event occurred first.

  • e.g. I had eaten dinner before I arrived at the party.

In the example above “had eaten”  happened before the party. The order of events is ate dinner then arrived to the party.


We create past perfect sentences by had + past participle.

  • e.g. had eaten
  • e.g. had walked
  • e.g. had forgotten

We create negative past perfect sentences by had + not + past participle.

  • e.g. had not eaten
  • e.g. had not walked
  • e.g. had not forgotten

We create past perfect questions by had + subject + past participle.

  • e.g. had he eaten?
  • e.g. had he walked?
  • e.g. had he forgotten?

Remember irregular verbs don’t end in “ed.” The only regular verb above is walk. Both eat and forget are irregular verbs and don’t end in the typical way.

  • e.g. eat > ate > eaten
  • e.g. forget > forgot > forgotten
Second language learners need to memorize the past participles of irregular verbs. They are important to remember because many tests require you to know irregular verbs by heart.


Where will you see past perfect

You will see past perfect in conditionals. Conditionals are also called “if statements.”

  • e.g. If I see him , I will let you know.

An example of a conditional using past perfect is:

  • e.g. If I had known, I would have told you.

You will see past perfect in the above type of conditional. It is a past unreal conditional or a third conditional.


For more information about verb tenses, check out the verb tense overview. If you want to try some practice, check out


Can you think of some examples of past perfect?


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Iain Robson

A teacher, a learner, and all round nice guy. I love talking to people through social media, and in real life. Feel free to connect with me on twitter

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