THE  PAST PERFECT TENSE

The PAST PERFECT tense makes use of the past tense form of TO HAVE which is HAD.  The past perfect tense is used to show THE EARLIER OF TWO EVENTS THAT have occurred in the past.  The verb that occurred *further back in time* is the one in the past perfect, and the verbs that refers to the event closer to the present is expressed in the simple past.   Use of the perfect past tense correctly and easily shows a sophisticated understanding of time relationships and a mastery of educated English.

For instance:

THE OGRE HAD EATEN THE KNIGHT BEFORE THE KNIGHT DREW HIS SWORD.

In this sentence, the dependent clause expresses the event that occurred in the more recent past; “drew” is expressed in the simple past.  The independent clause in this sentence expresses the event that happened farther back in time, so “had eaten” expresses the event that happened further back in time and so is expressed in the perfect past.

Here is a graph that shows the time frame of the events in the sentence.
 

                -2                     -1                  Now

Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future
         past perfect           simple past
          had eaten               drew

The graph shows that there are two verbs, both of which occurred in the past.  The verb, “eaten” occurred further back in time and so is in the perfect past tense “had eaten.”   The verb which occurred more closely to the present, “drew,” is in the simple past tense.
 

In the sentences that follow, fill in the diagrams with the verbs placed in the appropriate spots.  Then, put the word “had” wherever it is needed in the sentence--if it is needed.
 

1)There ____ (been,were) many stories of a banshee that _____ haunted the Victorian farm house for years.

                -2                     -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future

         past perfect           simple past
 

2)The banshee ______ frightened the previous owner to death.

                 -2                    -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future

         past perfect           simple past
 

3) The new owner _______not believed in ghosts before he _____bought the house.
                -2                     -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future

         past perfect           simple past
 

4)The owner _____ invited many guests to stay before he (known, knew) about the ghost.

                -2                    -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future
 

         past perfect           simple past
 

5)The guests and he  ______ (saw, seen) the banshee before the night_____ (was, been) over.

                -2                    -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future

 
         past perfect           simple past
 

6)After the banshee ____ shrieked, the guests ____cowered together in the kitchen.

                -2                      -1                 Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future
 

         past perfect           simple past
 

7)The guests ____ (ran, run) screaming outside after pots and pans ____ (flown, flew) in the air by themselves.

                -2                      -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future
 

         past perfect           simple past
 

8)The owner ______(hidden, hid) in the closet with the phone and ____called some scientists for help.
 
                -2                     -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future
 

         past perfect           simple past
 

9)The ghost _____disappeared by the time the scientists _______ arrived.

                -2                     -1                  Now
Past<-------/------------------/------------------/--------->Future
 

         past perfect           simple past
 

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copyright 2000 Cynthia Joyce Clay all rights reserved