What is the Past Perfect?
Before we start, look at these two examples and answer the questions below:
- The train left at 10.00. I arrived at the station at 10.05.
- When I arrived at the station, the train had already left.
- How many actions happened?
- Which action happened first?
- How many sentences are there in each statement?
- The meaning is the same, but what is the difference between them?
How do I make the Past Perfect?
had + Past Participle (3rd form)
- When I got to the airport the plane had already taken off.
- I tried to pay but I realised that I had left my wallet at home.
- He was in hospital because he had broken his leg.
- Before I came to the UK, I had never eaten British food.
When to use the Past Perfect
We can use Past Perfect when
- there are 2 consecutive actions in the past (The train left. I arrived.)
- you want to link the 2 actions with a linking word (When…)
- you want to add drama and interest to your story
Look at this example. It is correct but sounds weird:
I forgot my passport. I suddenly realised.
(TWO consecutive actions.TWO sentences. Simple Past, in the same order they happened.)
I suddenly realised that I had forgotten my passport.
(ONE sentence, a linking word, in a different order from how they happened)
Which one sounds better? The second one.
So we can use the Past Perfect with phrases like I realised that…, I noticed that…, I remembered that…I discovered that…I found out that…
We used it a lot in the Speaking Challenge, to answer questions like:
‘Have you ever lost your phone?’
‘Yes, I was travelling to work and when I sat down I realised my phone had fallen out of my pocket’.
‘Have you ever made a complaint?’ ‘
‘Yes I was staying in a hotel, and I had never been to a hotel by myself before. When they gave me the bill, I noticed that they had charged me for lots of things I hadn’t ordered!’.
We also use Past Perfect to explain situations in the past (the linking word is now because) e.g.
I was hungry because I hadn’t had any breakfast.
I failed the test because I hadn’t revised.
How can we use Past Perfect in Task 1?
Graphs/Tables in Task 1 usually describe a time period in the past.
So usually you only need to use the Simple Past Tense e.g. Between 2000 and 2010 sales increased.
But you can make that sentence more complex: use the linking word ‘BY’ and a date to describe what happened in the period before that date.
By 2010, the percentage of mobile phone users had reached 40%.
This follows the rule of 2 things in the past
- the date (2010 is in the past)
- the action before 2010 (40% owned a phone)
But the date comes first.
In 2000, 20% of the population owned a mobile phone.
By 2005, this had risen to 30%.
In 2010, 40% of the population owned a mobile phone.