Read about using the past perfect simple here. When you are ready, try the past perfect practice exercises to test your understanding.

Using the past perfect simple

We make the past perfect simple with had + past participle. It is used to show that something happened before a time in the past.

I'd seen the film 10 times by the time I was 12.

He was angry because I'd eaten all his cake (past perfect simple).This is often when an action has a past result, especially if the action is short, single, complete or we say how many:

He was angry (result) because she'd eaten all his cake (action before).

It's also common with verbs of thinking or speaking:

We thought he had broken the window.

We also use it for states continuing until a past time. We often use for to say how long.

Before I got married, I'd lived in France for three years.

Past perfect simple: how to make it

We make the past perfect simple using had + past participle (the third form of the verb, e.g. do - did - done). It is the same for all people (I, you, he, she ...). Use contractions ('d, hadn't) for speaking and informal writing.

Positive: He knew he'd studied this grammar before.

Negative: He knew he hadn't studied this grammar before.

Question: Had he studied this grammar before?

Past perfect or present perfect?

The past perfect connects two past times. The present perfect connects the past with the present. Compare the examples below: 

I've seen this film 10 times. (present perfect - before now)

I'd seen the film 10 times before I was 12. (past perfect, before I was 12)


He's angry because she's eaten all his cake. (present perfect - result now)

He was angry because she'd eaten all his cake. (past perfect, result in the past)


I've lived in France for three years. (present perfect - until now)

I'd lived in France for three years before I moved to Spain. (past perfect, until you moved)

When you are ready, try the practice exercises to test your understanding of the past perfect simple.