Functions of past perfect tense

Past perfect tense describes the complete action happened in the past for a certain period of time. Generally, it is also called the “past of the past.” Besides, past perfect has a natural connection with simple past to generate total sense of described actions in sequence. So, learning about the functions of past perfect tense is really vital.

Strong connection with simple past

Without simple past tense, the complete sense of meaning of perfect past is unimaginable. Therefore, it is always used in conjunction with the simple past in any sequence.

•John had selected for world cup team by the time he was just sixteen.

•He had started his preparation for Olympics by the time he was in the fifth standard.

•The bridge had already collapsed when the rescue team arrived.

•Tom accepted his mistake before he had been fined.

•Luckily, he escaped safely  before the bridge had collapsed.

•She couldn’t reach on time because she had already missed the last bus.

•We were really exhausted so I had requested for some relief.

In all these examples, simple past is used to construct better sense of meaning along with past perfect.

Main functions of past perfect

Now, let’s see some important functions plated by the past perfect tense.

To describe past of the past actions

•When he woke up, his father had already left for office.

•In this sentence, there are two actions expressed in a sequence manner. “By the time he woke up” is happened after “his father had already left.”

•It means, simple past used with “when” conjunction describes the action happened after earlier action.

•Both actions could be written interchangeably with “when” conjunction or “by the time of” phrase.

•His father had already left for office when he woke up.

•This is the reason why we used to describe the perfect past tense as the “past of the past.”

Difference between when and before

Both are “subordinating conjunctions” of time. “When” is used to describe transition of time or general junction of two actions. Whereas, “before” is used to describe two actions in sequence, especially later.

•Luckily, he escaped safely before the bridge had collapsed.

•When he reached there, the bridge had already been collapsed.

‘Before conjunction of time’ is preferred to introduce perfect past; whereas, “when” is commonly used to introduce simple past tense.

Explanation and conclusion

•She couldn’t reach on time because she had already missed the last bus.

In this sentence, conjunction “because” is used to explain the cause of inability.

•We were really exhausted so I had requested for some relief.

Here, “so” conjunction is placed to conclude result.

Like simple past, perfect present, and continuous tense, past perfect isn’t used with time expressions or time expressions are not so important.

Adverbial complements

Functions of preposition

Simple past tense

Learning present continuous tense