The past perfect

Introduction

I felt really tired when I took the train to work yesterday because Sarah and 1 had been to a party the evening before. We hadn’t gone to bed until after one. I hadn’t been on the train long when I had a bit of a shock. I suddenly realized that I’d left my wallet at home. Then I began to wonder. Had I left it in the office the day before? I just couldn’t remember. I wanted to go back to bed. I felt awful.

The situation is in the past (I took the train … I felt tired …). When we talk about things before this past time, we use the past perfect.

Sarah and I had been to a party the evening before.
I’d left my wallet at home.

We are looking back from the situation of the train journey to the earlier actions – going to a party and leaving home without the wallet.

Here are some more examples of the past perfect.

It was twenty to six. Most of the shops had just closed.
I went to the box office at lunch-time, but they had already sold all the tickets.
By 1960 most of Britain’s old colonies had become independent.

As well as actions, we can use the past perfect to talk about states.
I felt better by the summer, but the doctor warned me not to do too much. I’d been very ill. The news came as no surprise to me. I’d known for some time that the factory was likely to close.


Form
The past perfect is had + a past participle.
He had enjoyed the party, OR He‘d enjoyed the party.
They hadn’t gone to bed until late.
Where had he put his wallet?


Present perfect and past perfect
Compare these examples.

PRESENT PERFECT (before now)
My wallet isn’t here. I’ve left it behind.
The match is over. United have won.
That man looks familiar. I’ve seen him somewhere before.

PAST PERFECT (before then)
My wallet wasn’t there. I’d left it behind.
The match was over. United had won.
The man looked familiar. I’d seen him somewhere before.