I HAD LEARNED... The Past Perfect Tense | English Grammar Lesson with Pronunciation & Examples


Hey there I'm Emma from mmmEnglish!

Today we're gonna focus on the language that you need

to tell stories in English.

Now we all tell stories right about our day,

about our childhood or maybe just to laugh

at something that happened earlier.

So a really useful tense to help you

accurately tell stories in English

is the past perfect.

Now I know that grammar isn't usually heaps of fun

but we're going to include some pronunciation practice

and I will make it as fun as I can.

As always I've got a mini quiz at the end

to help you practise so make sure you stick around.

So we use the past perfect to talk about the past

but not just any situation in the past,

we use the past perfect

when we're talking about two events

that happened in the past

and when one event happened before the other event.

So it helps you to order the actions in your story.

Think about the past perfect as helping us to create

a timeline.

I had just stepped outside when it started to rain.

So there are two actions here, right?

I stepped outside, it started to rain.

Now if I use just the past simple

for both of these events

well then we don't know which one happened first, right?

All we know is that both events happened in the past.

So by using the past perfect in one of those actions,

I'm letting you know which action

happened before the other.

I had just stepped outside when it started to rain.

So which one came first?

I stepped outside and then after it started to rain.

Let's look at a few more examples.

She had just finished her exam when the timer went off.

So which action happened first?

Did the timer go up first?

No she finished her exam first but only by a little, just.

And we know this because of the past perfect.

I couldn't go out for dinner because I had left

my wallet at home.

So try and imagine the story here, you know, I was

working and one of my colleagues came up to ask me

to join them for dinner after work

but I realised that I didn't have my wallet that day.

I left it at home.

So I couldn't go out.

He had mentioned feeling sick,

but then they were surprised when he suddenly fainted.

Now that is a great sentence. It's very dramatic.

He did say that he felt sick

and he mentioned it before he fainted but

clearly, no one was paying attention because it was

a shock that he fainted.

So the past perfect helps our story to unfold over time,

to create suspense and to create drama.

So let's talk about how we make a past perfect sentence

and it's pretty simple actually

as far as English verb tenses go

especially after all of the conditionals videos

that I've been teaching lately.

You've probably already started noticing a pattern.

We create the past perfect by using the verb 'had'

the auxiliary verb 'had',

followed by our main verb in past participle form.

So let's go back and look at those same examples again

She had just finished her exam when the timer went off.

I couldn't go out for dinner

because I had left my wallet at home.

He had mentioned feeling sick

but then they were surprised when he suddenly fainted.

So I'm going to interrupt our lesson here

before we go too much further because I want to talk

about pronunciation.

Learning to correctly use contractions is going to help

you to sound much more natural

and much more relaxed as you speak.

'had' is our auxiliary verb here right and our main verb

comes after in the past participle form.

So auxiliary verbs are grammatical words. They're

usually unstressed and this impacts the way that

they are spoken.

Auxiliary verbs are usually connected to the subject

in spoken English so it's really natural to hear

I'd instead of I had






and the trickiest one of all,


It'd been raining all day.

Now in negative sentences, the auxiliary verb

usually contracts with 'not' so you'll hear

I hadn't instead of I had not.

Or you hadn't instead of you had not.

Now remember, we don't conjugate the auxiliary verb

when were using the past perfect right

so we use 'had' with 'she'.

She hadn't.

It hadn't.

They hadn't.

But you will occasionally hear the contraction

a little differently.

She'd not been there.

Or you'd not tasted it.

And this is absolutely no problem

but it's much less common. It's used less frequently.

My students often feel really frustrated about these

contractions because they're exactly the same

contractions as we use for 'I would'


It's annoying I know

but the clue is in the main verb that follows

because with 'would',

it's always followed by the infinitive verb right?

'had' is always followed by the past participle.

So if you hear 'I go to the beach every day after school'

we know that that's 'would' because

the verb 'go' is an infinitive form.

I'd been at the beach when the storm rolled in.

We know that that's the past perfect

because of the verb form that follows.

So as we move through this lesson,

tune into the way that I'm saying all the examples

and the practice sentences.

Try to practise out loud with me

and just get comfortable with it.

Alright now let's get back to how the past perfect

tense is used because it almost always involves

more than one event or action.

So we usually need to know what to do with the other

event in our sentence, right?

So when we use the past perfect in a sentence to show

the order of things that happen in the past,

the first event happens in the past perfect tense.

The second event happens in the past simple tense.

Now interestingly it doesn't matter which order

the events are in the sentence.

It's the tenses that tell us what happened first

so we could say the past perfect,

past simple or the past simple and the past perfect.

It's the same. In either of those examples,

the past perfect event is the one that happened

first in time.

I had just smelled smoke when the fire alarm went off.

Or when the fire alarm went off,

I had just smelled smoke.

So in both examples, I smelled the smoke first.

It happened just before the alarm went off.

I also want to make a special point about adverbs here

because we use adverbs like 'just' and 'really'


They're often used in the past perfect tense

and they go between 'had'

and our main verb right so we have 'had',

adverb, past participle.

Had just finished.

Had really tried. Had already eaten.

All of this is exciting huh? It helps us to add

more to our story.

So we use 'just' with the past perfect when one event

happens immediately before the other

so you really want to emphasise that

not much time has passed between the first event

and the second event.

He had just got in the shower

when he heard a knock at the door.

So it was only moments before.

We use 'already' with the past perfect when an event

happens early or earlier than expected.

I ran to the supermarket as fast as I could

but it had already closed when I got there.

Do you want to know one of the most common

mistakes that my students make with this tense?

Can you see what's wrong there?

It's the present perfect and you can't use 'when'

with the past simple and the present perfect.

We have to use the past perfect

'had' with the past participle even when

the subject is plural, we still use 'had'

okay so don't conjugate the verb. That is a massive

mistake when you're talking about the past perfect.

So we've gone through all the details about how

to make the past perfect, what you need to remember,

what you need to do.

Let's practise using it together.

I'm really looking forward to hearing some stories

from you guys.

Quiz time!

To kick off our quiz, I'm gonna give you two events

or actions up here.

Both of these events take place in the past.

So I'll tell you which event happened first and you'll need

to write a sentence correctly using the past perfect.

So the first event was we heard a strange noise

and the second event was

the lights went out immediately after.

Now that part about immediately after is important

because you can use an adverb to help explain that.

So you might write something like

We had just heard a strange noise

when the lights went out.

Now it's your turn to try. So I want you to write

your answers in the comments down below this video

so that I can come down and check them for you,

correct them if you need it.

Ths first event.

I decided to leave.

The second event.

The boss called for a meeting.

The second event

was we bought plane tickets.

The first event.

The prices increased.

Unexpectedly early.

Last one. First event.

She looked around for help.

Second event.

A salesperson appeared, immediately afterwards.

Awesome work!

I have got one extra challenge for you if you

really want to test your skills, see how well you can do.

I want you to write a short story for me

about a misadventure that you've had once in the past.

So I want you to try and use three examples

of the past perfect.

And just so you know a misadventure is an adventure

or a story but something went a little wrong.

Something went not quite right,

perhaps it's quite a funny story where you were

running late, you missed your bus

and you got rained on.

Or maybe it was a frustrating story about

losing your keys, getting locked out

and then missing an important meeting.

I'm really excited to read these stories guys

and I'm gonna do my best to give you feedback,

especially if you get your stories written in the next

couple of days,

as soon as this video is released on my channel.

Thank you for sticking with me through this lesson.

I hope that it was useful and a little bit of fun.

Make sure you subscribe to my channel and

share this lesson with anyone who you know needs to

practise their grammar a little.

As always you can join me right here for our next lesson

See you in there!