Problems with the Past Pefect Tense? Say No More!

The perfect tenses can be difficult grammar topics to understand at first.

More specifically, learning to use the past perfect can be frustrating… but have no fear! If you remember these rules, learn from the examples and practice, you can be a master of the past perfect in no time :)

Let's start with the basics...

1.) The most common use of the past perfect is to describe actions that happened before a past event.

2.) Know the formula!

3.) Remember! The past perfect usually contains two events in the PAST: one event before the other event.


“Clara had eaten all the ice cream by the time Luis arrived.”
Event A: Clara ate all the ice cream.
Event B: Luis arrived.
4.) Bonus!
Past perfect + JUST

Just is used with the past perfect to describe an event that happened only a short time before the present moment.

She had just mopped the floors before the children walked in with muddy shoes.
I had just seen a ghost before the power went out!
They had just bought their tickets only seconds before the train departed.

Now... Your turn!
Change the following sentences into one sentence using the past perfect tense:
  1. He went to the store. Then later the store closed.
  2. I bought a new dress last week. The party happened last night.
  3. You practiced Spanish. Then you went to Spain.
  4. Heather just finished the book. Then a new book arrived in the mail.
(Answer key at the bottom!)

Starting to understand the past perfect a little better? Good! With more practice it will be easier and easier. Have any questions? Send me a message! Want to practice even more? Let's do it together! Learning English can be fun and interesting with patience and a positive attitude, so don't give up and keep trying!

Answer key:
  1. He had gone to the store before the store closed.
  2. I had bought a new dress last week before the party happened last night.
  3. You had practiced Spanish before you went to Spain.
  4. Heather had just finished the book before a new book arrived in the mail.
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