Best Answer

We will use the verb 'eat' (an irregular verb) to illustrate the difference between past tense and past perfect tense.

Introductory grammar notes:

The past tense of eat is ate. The past participle (used for forming the 'past perfect') is eaten.

PAST TENSE: The 'past tense' ('Past Simple') form is used to say what happened/finished in a time before now.

e.g. 'Yesterday I ate three big bars of chocolate.'

PAST PERFECT TENSE: The 'past perfect' tense is used to show that an action had already finished before something else that also happened in the past. In other words, there are two events in the past, and one happened before the other.

PAST PERFECT FORM: had + (past participle).

e.g., 'I was very ill yesterday afternoon. I think this was because I had eaten three bars of chocolate at lunch time!'

Notice that two things are mentioned as happening yesterday. First (in time), I ate three bars of chocolate, and later I was ill.

In this case there is possibly a causal relationship between the two events, but this isn't always so when the past perfect is used.

e.g. 'I had only just put the washing out when it started to rain!'

It is extremely unlikely that putting the washing out to dry actually caused it to rain! However, notice that there are again two events, one following the other, i.e. (i) the washing was put out. (ii) it started to rain.


  • The 'past simple' relates to a finished event in the past.
  • The 'past perfect' form (had + past participle) is used when there are two events in the past, one of which occurred before the other.
User Avatar

Wiki User

12y ago
This answer is:
User Avatar
More answers
User Avatar

Wiki User

11y ago

The past perfect tense is used to refer to an action that happened in the past before another action that happened in the past.

To form the past perfect tense, you should follow this structure:

  • Subject + Had + Past Participle of Verb.

Some examples:

  • I had finished my homework when he arrived.
  • They had gone before we arrived.
  • We had eaten dinner before going to the concert.
This answer is:
User Avatar

User Avatar

Wiki User

12y ago

Formally, it is the combination of the past perfect tense of "to be" with the present participle of the principal verb for which the tense is formed. Example, with principal verb "go": "I had been going awry frequently until I got a global satellite positioning system for my car."

This answer is:
User Avatar

Add your answer:

Earn +20 pts
Q: What is the past perfect tense?
Write your answer...
Still have questions?
magnify glass