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.

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.

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?

Leave a Comment