Thursday, 23 July 2015

When to Use Past Perfect Tense

ContentsGrammar in Dialogues → Past Perfect (When to Use)


In this page we examine the Past Perfect Tense in a detail: what it actually means and how it is used. Some illustrative extracts from English literature are given below.

Past Perfect expresses an action accomplished before a given past moment and viewed back from the past moment. It may be a single point action, an action of some duration or a recurrent action. The time of the action in most cases is not indicated. Here are some examples (1, 2).

Example 1:
Vincent Van Gogh is talking with his cousin Kay in Amsterdam.

Kay: What are you thinking about, Cousin? You seem preoccupied.
Vincent: I was thinking that Rembrandt would have liked to paint you.
Kay: Rembrandt only like to paint ugly old women, didn’t he?
Vincent: No. He painted beautiful old women, women who were poor or in some way unhappy, but who through sorrow had gained a soul.
Kay: Forgive me for being stupid. I understand what you mean about Rembrandt. He gets at the real essence of beauty, doesn’t he, when he paints those gnarled old people who have suffering and defeat carved into their faces.
(I. Stone. Lust for Life)