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Past Perfect

Examples:
You had studied English before you moved to New York.
Had you studied English before you moved to New York?
You had not studied English before you moved to New York.

USE:
1. Completed Action Before Something in the Past

The Past Perfect expresses the idea that something occurred before another action in
the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past.
Examples:
I had never seen such a beautiful beach before I went to Miami.
I did not have any money because I had lost my wallet.
Tony knew Istanbul so well because he had visited the city several times.
Had Susan ever studied Thai before she moved to Thailand?
She only understood the movie because she had read the book.
Kristine had never been to an opera before last night.
We were not able to get a hotel room because we had not booked in advance.
A: Had you ever visited the U.S. before your trip in 2006?
B: Yes, I had been to the U.S. once before.

2. Duration Before Something in the Past (Non-Continuous Verbs)

With Non-Continuous Verbs and some non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, we use the
Past Perfect to show that something started in the past and continued up until another
action in the past.
Examples:
We had had that car for ten years before it broke down.
By the time Alex finished his studies, he had been in London for over eight years.
They felt bad about selling the house because they had owned it for more than forty
years.
Although the above use of Past Perfect is normally limited to Non-Continuous Verbs and
non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, the words "live," "work," "teach," and "study" are
sometimes used in this way even though they are NOT Non-Continuous Verbs.

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IMPORTANT Specific Times with the Past Perfect

Unlike with the Present Perfect, it is possible to use specific time words or phrases with
the Past Perfect. Although this is possible, it is usually not necessary.
Example:
She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in
1996.

MOREOVER
If the Past Perfect action did occur at a specific time, the Simple Past can be used
instead of the Past Perfect when "before" or "after" is used in the sentence. The words
"before" and "after" actually tell you what happens first, so the Past Perfect is optional.
For this reason, both sentences below are correct.
Examples:
She had visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in
1996.
She visited her Japanese relatives once in 1993 before she moved in with them in
1996.

HOWEVER

If the Past Perfect is not referring to an action at a specific time, Past Perfect is not
optional. Compare the examples below. Here Past Perfect is referring to a lack of
experience rather than an action at a specific time. For this reason, Simple Past cannot
be used.
Examples:
She never saw a bear before she moved to Alaska. Not Correct
She had never seen a bear before she moved to Alaska. Correct

ADVERB PLACEMENT
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only,
never, ever, still, just, etc.
Examples:
You had previously studied English before you moved to New York.
Had you previously studied English before you moved to New York?
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ACTIVE / PASSIVE
Examples:
George had repaired many cars before he received his mechanic's license. Active
Many cars had been repaired by George before he received his mechanic's license.
Passive

Simple Past
The simple past expresses an action in the past taking place once, never, several
times. It can also be used for actions taking place one after another or in the
middle of another action.
FORM
[VERB +ED ] OR IRREGULAR VERBS
EXAMPLES:
You called Debbie.
Did you call Debbie?
You did not call Debbie.
USE

1. Completed Action in the Past


USE

THE SIMPLE PAST TO EXPRESS THE IDEA THAT AN ACTION STARTED AND
FINISHED AT A SPECIFIC TIME IN THE PAST. SOMETIMES, THE SPEAKER MAY NOT
ACTUALLY MENTION THE SPECIFIC TIME, BUT THEY DO HAVE ONE SPECIFIC TIME IN
MIND.

EXAMPLES:
I saw a movie yesterday.
I didn't see a play yesterday.
Last year, I traveled to Japan.
Last year, I didn't travel to Korea.
Did you have dinner last night?
She washed her car.
He didn't wash his car.

2. A Series of Completed Actions


WE USE THE SIMPLE PAST TO LIST A SERIES OF COMPLETED ACTIONS IN THE
THESE ACTIONS HAPPEN 1ST, 2ND, 3RD, 4TH, AND SO ON.
EXAMPLES:
I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim.
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PAST.

He arrived from the airport at 8:00, checked into the hotel at 9:00, and met
the others at 10:00.
Did you add flour, pour in the milk, and then add the eggs?

3. Duration in Past
THE SIMPLE PAST CAN BE USED WITH A DURATION WHICH STARTS AND STOPS IN THE
PAST. A DURATION IS A LONGER ACTION OFTEN INDICATED BY EXPRESSIONS SUCH AS:
FOR TWO YEARS, FOR FIVE MINUTES, ALL DAY, ALL YEAR, ETC.
EXAMPLES:
I lived in Brazil for two years.
Shauna studied Japanese for five years.
They sat at the beach all day.
They did not stay at the party the entire time.
We talked on the phone for thirty minutes.
A: How long did you wait for them?
B: We waited for one hour.

4. Habits in the Past


THE SIMPLE PAST CAN ALSO BE USED TO DESCRIBE A HABIT WHICH STOPPED IN THE
PAST. IT CAN HAVE THE SAME MEANING AS "USED TO." TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT WE
ARE TALKING ABOUT A HABIT, WE OFTEN ADD EXPRESSIONS SUCH AS: ALWAYS,
OFTEN, USUALLY, NEVER, WHEN I WAS A CHILD, WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, ETC.
EXAMPLES:
I studied French when I was a child.
He played the violin.
He didn't play the piano.
Did you play a musical instrument when you were a kid?
She worked at the movie theater after school.
They never went to school, they always skipped class.

5. Past Facts or Generalizations


THE SIMPLE PAST

CAN ALSO BE USED TO DESCRIBE PAST FACTS OR


GENERALIZATIONS WHICH ARE NO LONGER TRUE. AS IN USE 4 ABOVE, THIS USE OF
THE SIMPLE PAST IS QUITE SIMILAR TO THE EXPRESSION "USED TO."

EXAMPLES:
She was shy as a child, but now she is very outgoing.
He didn't like tomatoes before.
Did you live in Texas when you were a kid?
People paid much more to make cell phone calls in the past.
IMPORTANT WHEN-CLAUSES HAPPEN FIRST
CLAUSES ARE GROUPS OF WORDS WHICH HAVE MEANING BUT ARE OFTEN NOT
COMPLETE SENTENCES. SOME CLAUSES BEGIN WITH THE WORD "WHEN" SUCH AS
"WHEN I DROPPED MY PEN..." OR "WHEN CLASS BEGAN..." THESE CLAUSES ARE
CALLED WHEN-CLAUSES, AND THEY ARE VERY IMPORTANT. THE EXAMPLES BELOW
CONTAIN WHEN-CLAUSES.
EXAMPLES:
When I paid her one dollar, she answered my question.
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She answered my question when I paid her one dollar.


WHEN-CLAUSES ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY ALWAYS HAPPEN FIRST WHEN BOTH
CLAUSES ARE IN THE SIMPLE PAST. BOTH OF THE EXAMPLES ABOVE MEAN THE SAME
THING: FIRST, I PAID HER ONE DOLLAR, AND THEN, SHE ANSWERED MY QUESTION. IT
IS NOT IMPORTANT WHETHER "WHEN I PAID HER ONE DOLLAR" IS AT THE BEGINNING
OF THE SENTENCE OR AT THE END OF THE SENTENCE. HOWEVER, THE EXAMPLE
BELOW HAS A DIFFERENT MEANING. FIRST, SHE ANSWERED MY QUESTION, AND THEN,
I PAID HER ONE DOLLAR.
EXAMPLE:
I paid her one dollar when she answered my question.
ADVERB PLACEMENT
THE EXAMPLES BELOW SHOW THE PLACEMENT FOR GRAMMAR ADVERBS SUCH AS:
ALWAYS, ONLY, NEVER, EVER, STILL, JUST, ETC.
EXAMPLES:
You just called Debbie.
Did you just call Debbie?
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
EXAMPLES:
Tom repaired the car. ACTIVE
The car was repaired by Tom. PASSIVE

Practice:
Hi, Mary. I ___________ (see/neg.) you at school last Monday.
B: Hello, Bob. I ___________ (come/neg.) on Monday. I wasn't
___________ (feel) well, so I ___________ (decide) to go to the doctor.
A: Oh! ___________ (be) it serious?
B: No, the doctor ___ (examine) me and ___________ (tell) me I
___________ (have) the flu. He ___________ (prescribe) some
medicine and ___________ (tell) me to go home and rest.
A: ___________ you ___________ (stay) home all day last Monday?
B: No, only in the morning. I ___________ (have) to work in the
afternoon, and guess what?
A: What?
B: When a friend ___________ (drive) me home, he ___________
(crash) his car. He ___________ (see/neg.) the red light.
A: ___________ anyone ___________ (get) hurt?
B: Thank God, nobody ___________ (do).
A: I'm happy to hear that. Well, Mary, I have to rush now. While I
___________ (listen) to your story, I ___________ (remember) that my
wife ___________ (ask) me to go to the mechanic to get our car. See
you later. Take care.
B: You too. Bye.

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Simple Past:
Form of Simple Past
For irregular verbs, use the past form (see list of irregular verbs, 2nd column). For regular verbs, just
add ed.

Exceptions in Spelling when Adding ed


Exceptions in spelling when adding ed

Example

after a final e only add d

love loved

final consonant after a short, stressed vowel


or l as final consonant after a vowel is doubled

admit admitted
travel travelled

final y after a consonant becomes i

hurry hurried

Use of Simple Past


action in the past taking place once, never or several times

Example: He visited his parents every weekend.


actions in the past taking place one after the other

Example: He came in, took off his coat and sat down.
action in the past taking place in the middle of another action

Example: When I was having breakfast, the phone suddenly rang.


if sentences type II (If I talked, )

Example: If I had a lot of money, I would share it with you.

Form
Simple Past

Past Perfect

2nd column of irregular verbs

had + 3rd column of irregular verbs

Example:
I spoke

Example:
I had spoken

regular verbs: infinitive + ed

regular verbs: form of have + infinitive + ed

Example:
I worked

Example:
I had worked

Exceptions

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Exceptions when adding ed:


when the final letter is e, only add d
Example:
love - loved
after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled
Example:
admit - admitted
final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)
Example:
travel - travelled
after a consonant, final y becomes i (but: not after a vowel)
Example:
worry - worried
but: play - played
See also explanations on Simple Past and Past Perfect

Use
We use Simple Past if we give past events in the order in which they occured. However, when we look
back from a certain time in the past to tell what had happened before, we use Past Perfect.

Normal order in the past or looking back to an event before a certain time in the
past?
Do you just want to tell what happened sometime in the past or do you want to tell what had happened
before/up to a certain time in the past?

Simple Past

Past Perfect

sometime in the past

before/up to a certain time in the past

Example:
Jane got up at seven. She opened her birthday presents
and then the whole family went to the zoo.

Example:
Before her sixth birthday, Jane had
never been to the zoo.

Signal Words
Simple Past

Past Perfect

first

already

then

up to then
before that day
after*

*Note: "After" is only used as a signal word for Past Perfect if it is followed by a subject + verb, meaning
that one action had been completed before another action began (the new action is in Simple Past).

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Example:
After the family had had breakfast, they went to the zoo.
However, if "after" is followed by object + subject + verb, the verb belongs to the new action and is
therefore in Simple Past.

Example:
After her visit to the zoo, Jane was exhausted.
More exceptions with signal words
When

Depending on the situation, "when" can be used with Simple Past or Past Perfect.
Compare the following examples:
Example:
When Jane saw the elephants, she was amazed. (at the same time)
When Jane had seen the elephants, she wanted to see the giraffes. (second
action happened after the first action had been completed)
When Jane went to see the elephants, she had already seen the lions. (second
action had been completed when the first action took place)
Before
"Before" as well can either be used with Simple Past or Past Perfect. If the action after
"before" is a new action, use Simple Past. If the action after "before" started (and was
not completed) before a certain time in the past, use Past Perfect. Compare the
following examples:
Example:
Jane had read a lot about elephants before she went to the zoo.
Jane went to the zoo before she had finished reading her new book about
elephants.
Past Perfect - Simple Past (Statements) - Exercise
Explanation: Past Perfect - Simple Past contrasted

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Put the verbs in brackets into the gaps in the correct tense Past Perfect or Simple Past.
Example: Pat _________ (live) in London before he _________ (move) to Rome.
Answer: Pat had lived in London before he moved to Rome.
1) After Fred ___________ ( spend) his holiday in Italy he ___________ (want) to learn Italian.
2) Jill ___________ ( phone) Dad at work before she ___________ ( leave) for her trip.
3) Susan ___________ ( turn on) the radio after she ___________ ( wash) the dishes.
4) When she ___________ (arrive) the match ___________ already___________ (start).
5) After the man ___________ ( come) home he ___________ ( feed) the cat.
6) Before he ___________ ( sing) a song he ___________ (play) the guitar.
7) She ___________ ( watch) a video after the children ___________ (go) to bed.
8) After Eric ___________ (make) breakfast he ___________ (phone) his friend.
9) I ___________ (be) very tired because I ___________ (study) too much.
10) They ___________ (ride) their bikes before they ___________ (meet) their friends.

Past perfect and simple past compared


The past simple tense

The past perfect tense

In 1976, 60% of families were couples with


children.

By 1996, this had fallen to


51%.

In 1981, 34% of children aged 20-24 lived with


their parents.

By
1991 this
increased to 40%.

had

It is easier to understand the past perfect tense if you think of it as an earlier past tense.
1996 was a date in the past

The fall to 51% occurred before 1996.

It was completed by 1996.

1991 was a date in the past

The increase to 40% occurred before 1991.

It was completed by 1991.

Earlier past events or situations are indicated by the past perfect


The past simple tense and the past perfect tense are often used in the same sentence.

Several senior employees had left the company by the time the new manager arrived.

This can be shown on a time line

earlier past

senior employees had left.

more recent past

new manager arrived.

Both events were in the past, but one occured earlier than the other.

Further examples

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Comments

present time

tense.

They announced that


personal reasons.

When
he took
productivity had already been
two years.
Before the installation of the new line,
productivity had been very low.

he had

resigned for This is an example of reported speech.


The actual announcement was: "He has
resigned for personal reasons".
over, had been declining is an example of
declining for the past perfect continuous tense.

There is no past simple verb here,


but the installation is the more recent
action.
Until the new software was purchased, the Here, the passive voice is used to
the
more
recent
staff had struggled to keep the accounts describe
action,software was purchased.
records up to date.

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