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Past Perfect



The past perfect is used to describe the order of two past actions. The past perfect is used for the "more past" action.


I had eaten dinner

when my wife came home.

first action (more past):
past perfect

second action (more recent):
past simple


The past perfect --

  • expresses the "more past" of two past actions.
  • is used in reported speech.
  • takes the form had + past participle.
  • uses "when" and "already " as time expressions.
    • "when" is used to express the time an action happened
      • "I had been reading the newspaper when the phone rang."
    • "already" is used to express an action completed before a second, more recent action
      • "I had already agreed to go to Tom's house for dinner when Alice invited me to her house for dinner."

Related Sections

Past Simple
Present Perfect
Reported Speech