Using Past Perfect Tense

Traditional grammarians have always maintained that the past perfect tense must be used when the time of one past action is more past than that of another.

Special cases

Sometimes we can use time conjunctions (e.g. before, after, when, while, as soon as, no sooner etc.) to talk about two actions or events that happen one after the other. Usually the past perfect tense is not necessary in these cases, though it can be used.

Though the past perfect tense is not necessary in these sentences, it is used when we want to emphasize the idea of completion.

Cases where the past perfect tense is not possible

The past perfect tense is not used when the first action 'leads into' the other or when there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two actions. In such cases we use two simple past tenses.

Here two simple past tenses are used because there is a cause-and-effect link between the two actions: I wouldn't have seen the strange sight if I hadn't opened the door.

Past perfect tenses are normally only used as described above. The past perfect is not used simply to say that something happened some time ago.

Sections in this article

Tense rules - overview
The simple present tense
The present progressive tense
The present perfect tense
The present perfect progressive tense
Present tenses to talk about the future
The simple past tense
The past progressive tense
The past perfect tense
Correct use of the past perfect tense
The past perfect progressive tense
Past verb forms with present or future meaning
The simple future tense
The future progressive tense
The future perfect tense
Tenses in subordinate clauses

See also

Adverb clauses
Adjective clauses
Noun clauses
Transformation of sentences

See also

Common mistakes in the use of nouns
Common mistakes in the use of nouns | Exercise 1
Common mistakes in the use of nouns | Exercise 2
Common mistakes in the use of nouns | Exercise 3

More CBSE English Grammar worksheets

Passive voice worksheet | Simple past tense
Passive voice worksheet | Past continuous tense
Passive voice worksheet | Simple future tense
Passive voice worksheet | Future perfect tense


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