Past vs Past Perfect
Past and Past perfect are two types of tenses used in English grammar with difference between them. While past tense is used to describe an event that was completed, past perfect tense is used to describe an event that was completed long ago. This is the main difference between the usages of past tense and past perfect tense. Separately, we have an idea when to use past tense and past perfect tense. However, problems arise when we have to use past tense and past perfect tense together in sentences. Once you have read this article you will have a clear idea how to use past and past perfect together in sentences without problems.
What is Past Perfect Tense?
We use past perfect tense when we want to talk about something that happened before something else happened. Look at the two sentences given below:
He came home.
I had finished my dinner before he came home.
In the sentences mentioned above, you can see that the past tense is used in the first sentence and past perfect tense is used in the second sentence.
Thus, you can understand that past tense is used when we talk about the past or the completion of an action at the time of speaking. In the first sentence, the person talked about the past in saying ‘he came home’. On the other hand, in the second sentence the person talked about something that happened before something else happened. In the sentence, you can see that the person had finished his dinner before someone else came home.
Let us see a simple explanation of the use of past perfect tense. Both past tense and past perfect tense take place in the past. However, when in a sentence we are using both the past tense and the past perfect tense the action that happened first is written in the past perfect. Here, in the second example, what happened first was finishing the dinner. Therefore, it is in past perfect while the other action of coming home is written using simple past.
The past perfect tense is formed by had + past participle. This is the important rule to be memorized in the case of past perfect tense. In the example given above, ‘finish’ is the verb and ‘finished’ is its past participle form. The past perfect form is formed by adding had and ‘finished’. Thus, had + finished should be used in the formation of the past perfect tense. In the same way ‘had + looked’, ‘had + sung’, ‘had + written’ are the different past perfect forms of the different verbs.
What is Past Tense?
The past tense also known as simple past or past simple is the first and the easiest tense to learn under past tense. It is normally used to describe actions that are completed in the past. For example,
I ate cake with my sister.
They danced to slow music.
In both of the above examples, you can see how past tense is used.
Unlike past perfect tense, the formation of past simple tense does not have a formula. It simply uses the past tense of the verb. For regular verb –ed is added to the present verb. For irregular verbs, the different verb form is used. In the first example above, you see how the irregular verb eat uses its past verb form ate in the sentence. In the second sentence, for the past tense –ed is added to dance as dance is a regular verb.
What is the difference between Past and Past Perfect Tenses?
• Past tense is used to describe an event or action that was completed.
• Past perfect is used to describe an action that was completed long ago in the past.
• When past tense and past perfect tense are used together, the action that happened first takes the past perfect form while the other is written using past tense.
• Had + Past participle is the formula for past perfect tense.
• Past tense of a verb does not have a formula. If the verb is regular –ed is added to the end of the verb. If the verb is irregular, its relevant past form is used.
Saksham Shrivastava says
What about the statement:
When we got to the theatre, the movie started.
Here, we reached the theatre before the movie started. Still, we haven’t used the past perfect in the first sentence.
Aisha bibi says
This is wrong you can not use simple indefinite tense twice in a sentence It would be as
We had reached the theatre before the movie started.
L Robertson says
Hi. You say, “When we got to the theatre, the movie started.”, which says to me that your arrival and the start of the movie coincided with one another, that is, that the movie began immediately upon your arrival. I mean no disrespect in saying this.
I would love for someone to answer the last question on this thread about the difference between I just and I have just. Is the first present simple and the latter present perfect? Please answer if you are able and feel so inclined. Thanks.
What about I have just realized and i just realized , what’s the difference