Two uses of the Past Perfect Tense in English Grammar

One question that I keep being asked - quite a lot is the use of the past perfect tense. WE don't really use it that often but today I'll show you the two main ways that we can use it.

The first way is in Reported Speech. Now, reported speech is where you are telling someone a conversation that took place, but obviously the person you are telling wasn't there. 

Any past simple tense speech would be changed to the past perfect - assuming of course the time in which they spoke the original story is later. If it is the same time - for example today or this morning etc then we keep it the same tense, but that's for another lesson!

So imagine you heard this:

  • The student said to the teacher, "My dog ate my homework yesterday".

The past simple is ate so we change this to the past perfect in reported speech to the following sentence:

  • The student said to the teacher their their dog had eaten their homework the day before.

So now ate is now past perfect had eaten.

The second one is when two actions have taken place - both are important but the time between the two actions is not known or not important. 

If you know the past continuous tense, its a lot like that, The past continuous shows two actions happen immediately together:

  • I was taking a shower when the phone rang.

Here the shower action is stopped by the ringing of the phone

We can compare this to the past perfect:

  • I had taken a shower already by the time the phone rang.

The shower action has finished and the ringing of the phone is later by we are not concerned with the time between the two actions.

It's great to read as you can see these rules for yourself! Hope this helped, if you have any questions then please let us know!

Ajarn Ken