October 10


EP22: Past Perfect


Hello hello, fellow learners of English, how are you doing out there? This is Kristian here, nice to be with you again, and welcome to the Learners of English Podcast, episode number 22.

You are listening to this podcast because you want to improve your English, so you can fulfil your dreams in life, whatever they may be. As always, it’s an honor for me to help you to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.

Before we start, let me just remind you that you can find the transcript of this episode on my website learnersofenglish.com.

OK, let’s get down to business.

Today we are talking about the past perfect. The past perfect is “the past before the past.” You can use it to talk about an event that happened before another event in the past. To form the past perfect we need:

had + past participle

  • I had worked as a teacher of English for several years before I started this podcast.
  • I hadn’t worked as a teacher of English before I moved to the Czech Republic. 
  • Had you already learnt Czech before you moved to Prague?

So, when do we use the past perfect?

Well, when we’re telling a story there are the main events in the story, and those are probably told with past simple. Here’s an example: 

Question: What did you do this morning? 

Answer: I woke up, took a shower, had breakfast and went to work.  

But you’d use past perfect to put those things in a different sequence.

I woke up, took a shower, had breakfast, left the apartment and when I got to work I realised I had forgotten to bring my phone.

The had forgotten to bring my phone part comes at the end of the sentence but it actually happened before all the other events. So we use the past perfect to show that this happened earlier.

The past perfect is often used with to realise. For example, When I arrived at the platform I realised that the train had already left or I walked to the parking lot, looked for my car, but I couldn’t find it. Then I realised that my car had been stolen.

Here are some other examples:

  • I‘d finished all the work by the time you called.
  • Before I started my podcast, I had already thought about it for more than a year.
  • He‘d never met a Czech person until I moved to Prague.

Had Had?

With the past perfect, it’s possible to have the structure had had and hadn’t had in a sentence, when had is both the auxiliary verb and the main verb. In these cases, it’s very common to use the short form. For example: 

  • When I saw her, I could tell that she had had too much to drink.
    When I saw her, I could tell that she‘d had too much to drink.
  • I told my boss that I hadn’t had enough time to finish the project.
  • We’d never had an argument until last week.

So that’s past perfect then. You should never confuse it with present perfect, because we use them to talk about different time periods. Past perfect for the past and present perfect for the present. The clue is in the name.

Now it’s time for you to start practicing. You can use my examples to write down your own examples.

Remember, only if you take action, you’ll become a successful learner of English, and you can achieve your life goals and fulfil your dreams.

All right, let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments or via email. Take care of yourself, and each other and I’ll catch you in the next episode.

About the author 


Kristian is a Dutch guy who teaches English online. He relaxes with audiobooks, music and podcasts. Kristian still has a lot to learn, but he's happy to share what he has learnt along the way.

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