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English grammar explanations (past perfect simple).

The basics - structure:

The syntax of the structure is: subject + auxiliary verb "had" + past participle.

She had arrived.

The police had followed the criminal.

There had been a lot of snow the night before.

 

Question form:

We make inversion between the subject and the auxiliary "had":

Had she arrived?

Had the police followed the criminal?

Had there been a lot of snow the night before?

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Negative form:

She had not (hadn't) arrived.

The police had not (hadn't) followed the criminal.

There had not (hadn't) been a lot of snow the night before.

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Past perfect - use in real life:

Talking about actions in the reverse order.

When we talk about actions in the past in the order they happen, we use past simple for each action verb:

Mary left the party then I arrived.

X Mary left (1)             X I arrived (2)
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But we can talk about actions in the past in reverse order:

When I arrived at the party, Mary had left.

X Mary left (2)             X I arrived (1)
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When we use past perfect here, we show that "Mary left" before "I arrived". The action begins at a "present" in the past (I arrived) and we use past perfect to talk about events before that "present in the past".

 

Why we use past perfect.

Past perfect helps to explain why events happened in a certain order. Consider:

Mary left the party. John went to see Mary at the party.

Why did John go to see Mary at the party if she was not there? Past perfect helps to explain this:

When John went to see Mary at the party, she had left.

We now understand John did not know Mary had left the party.

 

Adverbs with past perfect.

Some adverbs are common with past perfect like "just" and "already". They help to explain better when and why events happened. These adverbs are placed between the auxiliary and the past participle. "Just" says the two actions happened very close together in time:

I arrived at the bus stop but the bus had just left. I saw it driving down the road.

 

"Already" puts emphasis on the fact that the action happened before:

I ran to the post office to buy a stamp but it when I arrived, it had already closed

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Exercises on past perfect simple...

 

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