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Verbs: pluperfect tense

The pluperfect tense is used to talk about the past and to say what you had done.

Pluperfect tense

Before reading this section, it would be helpful to read through the pages on perfect tense and the imperfect tense.

How to form the pluperfect

  1. A pronoun (‘ich’, ‘du’ etc) or a noun (‘der Hund’ etc)
  2. An auxiliary verb (the imperfect tense of either ‘haben’ or ‘sein’)
  3. A past participle (which goes at the end of the sentence)

These are exactly the same things you need for the perfect tense. The only difference is the auxiliary verb. Look back at the perfect tense if you need to revise that first.

Auxiliary verbs

The pluperfect uses the imperfect form of ‘haben/sein’.


Haben (to have)

Pronoun Haben (imperfect form)
ich hatte
du hattest
er/sie/es/man hatte
wir hatten
ihr hattet
sie/Sie hatten


Sein (to be)

Pronoun Sein (imperfect form)
ich war
du warst
er/sie/es/man war
wir waren
ihr wart
sie/Sie waren


Example of pluperfect with imperfect haben/sein

  • Ich hatte Tennis gespielt -> I had played tennis.
  • Ich war nach Deutschland gefahren -> I had been to Germany.

Using the pluperfect tense

Sentences using the pluperfect tense often include words like ‘nachdem’ (after), linking two things which happened, usually one before the other, eg:

  • Nachdem ich aufgestanden war, habe ich gefrühstückt -> After I had got up, I ate breakfast.
  • Bevor ich nach Indien gefahren bin, hatte ich ein bißchen Hindi gelernt -> Before I went to India, I had learnt a bit of Hindi.
  • Mein Bruder ist krank geworden, weil er keine Vitamine gegessen hatte -> My brother got sick, because he had not eaten any vitamins.

‘Nachdem’, ‘bevor’ and ‘weil’ are ‘subordinating conjunctions’, which means they send the verb to the end of that clause/sentence.

Common mistakes made by English speakers

  • Using the present tense of haben and sein instead of the imperfect.
  • Forgetting to stick to the same word order as the Perfect Tense.
  • Getting the word order wrong in more complicated sentences.

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