The Past Perfect

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Welcome to your Past Perfect lesson! In this topic we talk about:

• When do we use the Past Perfect? 

The Present Perfect or the Past Perfect? 

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When do we use the Past Perfect?

Imagine this situation:

Yesterday I went to the bus stop. I arrived at 10:45. The bus wasn’t there. The bus left at 10:30. So:

By the time I arrived at the bus stop, the bus had already left.

“Had left” is the past perfect simple. The auxiliary is always HAD.

The Past Simple is mostly used when telling a story in the past:

I arrived at the party.

This is the beginning point of the story. If I want to talk about something that happened before this point, I would use the Past Perfect:

By the time I arrived at the party, James had already left.

Here are some more examples:

When I arrived at the airport, I found out that the plane had been delayed.

Mark didn’t want to see the film with us. He had already seen it.

I was happy when I bought my car, then I realized that I’d made a big mistake.

She was sat next to a man that hadn’t flown before.

The Present Perfect or the Past Perfect?

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

What is this dish? I‘ve never seen it before!

I’m not thirsty, I‘ve just had a beer.

She hasn’t seen a good film in ages.

I had never tasted black pudding before coming to England.

I wasn’t thirsty, I had just had a beer.

She hadn’t seen a good film before she went to the cinema yesterday.


  • We use the Past Perfect to talk about an event before a past action.
  • The auxiliary is always HAD.

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