Past Perfect: Negative & Questions

We use the Past Perfect for something that started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past.

Past Perfect

Negative sentences

To make negative statements in the Past Perfect, we use:

had not (hadn’t) + Past Participle

This is often used to explain or give a reason for something in the past.

I had not (hadn’t) left
You hadn’t left
He/she/it hadn’t left
We hadn’t left
You hadn’t left
They hadn’t left
  • Nick hadn’t attended our meeting, so we discussed everything without him.
  • I hadn’t read the play before I went to the theater to see it.
  • They were so excited. They hadn’tdanced together since 2014.

Questions in Past Perfect

We use Past Perfect tense to ask and answer questions about actions that took place before a certain moment or another action in the past.

Past Perfect Tense

To make questions in the Past Perfect, we put ‘had’ before the subject and add the Past Participle form of the verb:

  • Had they arrived in New York before it got dark?

Yes/No questions

To create a question that will be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, use ‘Had‘ (or ‘Hadn’t‘ for a negative question) + Past Participle form of the verb.

Had I seen?
Had you seen?
Had he/she/it seen?
Had we seen?
Had you seen?
Had they seen?
  • Had you seen Helen playing squash with Nicole before the rain started?
  • Had he made any mistakes before the teacher asked him to hand in the test?
  • You looked pale. Had anybody scared you?
Note: In short positive answers to the Past Perfect questions we use only full forms of ‘had’. In short negative answers we can also use short forms of ‘had’.
  • Had you made your homework before the movie started?
  • Yes, I had (No, I hadn’t).
  • Had he already finished cleaning when you came in?
  • Yes, he had (No, he hadn’t).

Special questions

Special questions (also known as wh-questions) are questions that require more information in their answers. They are made using wh- words such as what, where, when, why, which, who, how, how many, how much.

To make a special question, use the same word order as with yes-no questions but put a wh-word before the verb ‘had’. The structure is:

wh-word + had + [subject] + Past Participle

  • How had she washed clothes before the light went off?
  • Why had Roy gone to America?
  • How much had she studied before the exam?
  • How many cups of coffee had he drunk before the interview?

See also:

Past Perfect: Statements

Present Perfect or Past Perfect?

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