Other Tenses and
  Verb Topics


Simple Past

Present Perfect


Future Perfect

Strong Verbs

Modal Auxiliaries



Reflexive Verbs


Grammar Review Home

Dartmouth German
  Studies Department

The Past Perfect Tense in English:

The past perfect tense describes events or situations that precede another point in the past that has been established through the the present perfect or the simple past.

English creates this tense with a past participle and, as the name suggests, with the auxiliary verb, "to have," conjugated in its past-tense forms:

I had already noticed that before you called my attention to it.
She was tired because she hadn't slept the night before.
He had been living in his car for several months before finally finding an apartment.

For a discussion of how to form the past participle, consult the explanation of the present perfect.

The Past Perfect Tense (das Plusquamperfekt) in German:

In German, as in English, the past perfect describes a time previous to another in the past. It is constructed just like the present perfect tense, except that the auxiliary "haben" or "sein" is in its simple past form: "hatte" or "war."

Sie hatte gut gespielt, bis sie verletzt wurde. She had played well until she was injured.
Er war schon einen Monat in Berlin gewesen, bevor er in die Oper gegangen ist. He had already been in Berlin for a month before he went to the opera.
Ich hatte Chinesisch schon als Kind gesprochen, aber jetzt wollte ich Deutsch lernen. I had already spoken Chinese as a child, but now I wanted to learn German.
Wir hatten nichts davon gewusst, bis sie endlich alles erklärte. We hadn't known anything about it until she finally explained everything.
Der Wolf hatte die Großmutter schon gefressen, als Rotkäppchen ins Haus kam. The wolf had already eaten the grandmother before Little Red Riding-Hood came into the house.