Lesson 14
The Past Perfect

 

The past perfect is key to narrating stories in the past and to mastering the past conditional

Past perfect

We use the past perfect when we want to refer to actions that happened in the past BEFORE another action that also took place in the past (this last action usually goes in simple past tense).

Normally the past perfect is used in stories or when narrating a sequence of events that happened and ended in the past simple tense.

 

For example:

  • They had already solved (past perfect- action that happened before) the problem when the technician arrived (simple past tense- this action). Ellos ya habían resuelto el problema cuando el técnico llegó.
  • Had you asked about them before? ¿Habías preguntado acerca de ellos antes?
  • I had seen the film. That’s why I wasn’t interested in going to the cinema. Yo había visto la película por eso yo no estaba interesado en ir al cine.

 

The past perfect in conditional sentences

The past perfect can appear in conditional sentences. 

In this case, it is always preceded by “if” (or, “in case”, “provided that” and “when”) and it refers to an action that could have taken place in past but didn’t, therefore it’s called the impossible condition (also “past or third conditional”).

 

Examples:

  • If you had come. Si tú hubieses venido.
  • If they had done it. Si ellos lo hubieran hecho.
  • If we had bought it. Si nosotros lo hubiéramos comprado.

We will review this structure more closely in lesson 17 as part of the conditional sentences.

Let’s review its structure.

 

Structure: 

  • Affirmative: Subject + had+ p.p of the main verb+ object. Example: I had studied at the library the night before.
  • Negative: Subject + had + not + p.p. of the main verb+ object. Example: They hadn’t done anything when he got home.
  • Question: Had+ subject + p.p. of the main verb+ object? Had you cleaned the kitchen yesterday?
  • Negative question: Had+ not + subject + p.p. of the main verb+ object? Example: Hadn’t you invited her to the party?
  • Answers: Yes, + subject + had- No, +subject + had + not. Examples: Yes, I had- No, I had not.

 

 

Spanish equivalent tense: In Spanish it is the “pluscuamperfecto del indicativo” of the verb “haber”, so we usually translate this as “había” + p.p. of the main verb.

 

For example: Yo ya había cenado cuando ellos me llamaron. I had already had dinner when they called me.

 

However, as part of the past conditional, it is usually translated as “hubiera/hubiese”.

 

For example: If I had known- Si yo hubiera/hubiese sabido.

 

Mastering the past participles

 

As with the Past Continuous, the Past Perfect is a relative simply tense to learn and reproduce, so we will focus our attention on learning sentences using the past perfect, paying special attention to the past participles of the verbs.

 

I have listed sentences in this tense below that can be found in the first 10 chapters of the audiobook.

 

Please, listen to them and repeat them aloud.

 

Spanish English Phonetics Approximate Pronunciation

Ella había olvidado qué hacía

She had forgotten what he did (Chapter 1)

| ʃi həd fəˈɡɒtn̩ ˈwɒt hi dɪd |

Shí hád for’gatn wuat hi did

Ella me dijo que había conocido a un joven maravilloso llamado Dorian Gray

She told me that she had met a marvellous young man called Dorian Gray (Chap 1)

ʃi təʊld miː ðət ʃi həd met ə ˈmɑːvləs jʌŋ mæn kɔːld ˈdɔːiən ɡreɪ|

Shi tóuld mi dat shi had met a márveles ian man kold dórian grei

¿Cómo un desconocido le había descubierto su propio ser?

How had a stranger discovered his own self? (Chap 2)

ˈhaʊ həd ə ˈstreɪndʒə dɪˈskʌvəd ɪz əʊn self|

Hau had a sstréinyer diskoverd iss oun sélf

Entonces él pensó en lo que había dicho Lord Henry

Then he thought about what Lord Henry had said (Chap 2)

ðə hi ˈθɔːt əˈbaʊt ˈwɒt lɔːd ˈhenri həd ˈsed |

Den hí zót ábout wuat lord hénri had sed

¿Qué había pasado?

What had happened? (Chap 2)

ˈwɒt həd ˈhæpənd | |

Wuat had hapend?

El criado le dijo que el almuerzo ya había empezado

The servant told him that lunch had already started (Chap 3)

ðə ˈsɜːvənt təʊld ɪm ðət lʌntʃ həd ɔːlˈredi ˈstɑːtɪd |

De sérvant tóuld him dat lanch had ólreadi stártid

Creí que usted le había prometido a Basil que

I thought you had promised Basil that… (Chap 3)

ˈaɪ ˈθɔːt ju həd ˈprɒmɪst ˈbæzl̩ dat…

Ai zot iu had prómist bássel dat

Dorian estaba en la pequeña biblioteca de la casa de Lord Henry, que aún no había llegado a casa

 

Dorian was in the small library of Lord Henry’s house, who still hadn’t arrived home. (Chap. 4)

ˈdɔːiən wəz ɪn ðə smɔːl ˈlaɪbrəri əv lɔːd ˈhenriz ˈhaʊs | huː stɪl ˈhædnt əˈraɪvd həʊm |

Dórian wuass in de láibrari of lord henriss háus, hu sstil háden’t áraivd hom-

Si yo no

lo hubiese hecho

If I hadn’t done it…(Chap. 4)

ɪf ˈaɪ ˈhædnt dʌn it |

If ai hadnt donet

Ella era la cosa más hermosa que jamás había visto en mi vida

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life! (Chap. 4)

ʃi wəz ðə məʊst ˈbjuːtəfl̩ ˈθɪŋ ˈaɪ həd ˈevə ˈsiːn ɪn maɪ laɪf |

Shi wuass de moust bíutiful zing ai had ever sin in mái láif

Él empezó a pensar en qué había ocurrido con Dorian

He started to think about what had happened with Dorian (Chap 4)

hi ˈstɑːtɪd tə ˈθɪŋk əˈbaʊt ˈwɒt həd ˈhæpənd wɪð ˈdɔːiən|

Hi sstartid tu zink ábaut wuat had hápned wuiz dórian

Una de las criaturas más hermosas que él había visto en su vida.

One of the most beautiful creatures he had ever seen in his life (Chap. 6)

wʌn əv ðə məʊst ˈbjuːtəfl̩ ˈkriːtʃəz hi həd ˈevə ˈsiːn ɪn ɪz laɪf |

Wuán of de móust bíutiful crítshers hi had éver sin in his láif

Parecía que la cara había cambiado

It seemed that the face had changed. (Chap. 7)

It siːmd ðət ðə feɪs həd tʃeɪndʒd|

It símd dat de feis had chéinchd

De repente recordó lo que había dicho en el estudio de Basil Hallward

Suddenly he remembered what he had said in Basil Hall wards’s studio (Chap. 7)

sʌdn̩li hi rɪˈmembəd ˈwɒt hi həd ˈsed ɪn ˈbæzl̩ hɔːl wɔːdzɪz ˈstjuːdɪəʊ |

Sadenli hi rímemberd wuat hi had sed in bássel holwardss studio

Él había deseado poder permanecer joven

He had wished that he could remain young (Chap. 7)

hi həd wɪʃt ðət hi kəd rɪˈmeɪn jʌŋ |

Hi had wíshed dat hi had imein iang

¿Se había cumplido su deseo (de él)?

Had his wish come true? (Chap 7)

həd ɪz wɪʃ kʌm truː |

Had hiss wuish kam tru?

¿Había sido él cruel?

Had he been cruel?

həd hi biːn krʊəl |

Had hi bin krul?

Él se había enamorado de ella

He had fallen in love with her (Chap 7)

hi həd ˈfɔːlən ɪn lʌv wɪð hə |

Hi had folen in lov wuiz her

Ella le había decepcionado (a él)

She had disappointed him (Chap 7)

ʃi həd ˌdɪsəˈpoɪntɪd ɪm|

Shi had disápointid him

¿Había cambiado realmente el retrato?

Had the portrait really changed? (Chap 8)

həd ðə ˈpɔːtrɪt ˈrɪəli tʃeɪndʒd |

Had de portreit rili cheinchd?

La crueldad alrededor de su boca había aparecido en el mismo momento en que ella murió.

The cruelty around the mouth had appeared at the same moment that she died (Chap 8)

ðə ˈkruːəlti əˈraʊnd ðə maʊθ həd əˈpɪəd ət ðə seɪm ˈməʊmənt ðət ʃi daɪd |

De kruelti a´raund de máuz had ápird at de séim móument dat shi daid

Él sintió que la elección de su vida ya había sido hecha

He felt that his life choice had already been made (Chap 8)

hi felt ðət ɪz laɪf tʃɔɪs həd ɔːlˈredi biːn ˈmeɪd|

Hi felt da his láif chóis had ólredi biin

Entonces, Dorian Gray recordó que Lord Henry le había dicho que le preguntase por qué él no quería exponer el cuadro.

Then Dorian Gray remembered that Lord Henry had told him to ask him why he didn’t want to exhibit the picture (Chap 9)

ðen ˈdɔːiən ɡreɪ rɪˈmembəd ðət lɔːd ˈhenri həd təʊld ɪm tu ɑːsk ɪm waɪ hi ˈdɪdnt wɒnt tu ɪɡˈzɪbɪt ðə ˈpɪktʃə|

Den dórian grei rímemberd dat lord hénri had tóuld him tu ask him wuao hi didnt wuant to ekssibit de piksher

Porque él había empezado a envejecer

Because he had started to grow old (Chap 10)

bɪˈkɒz hi həd ˈstɑːtɪd tə ɡrəʊ əʊld |

Bíkoss hi had sstartid tu grou ould

Donde él había encerrado el retrato

Where he had locked away the portrait (Chap. 10)

weə hi həd lɒkt əˈweɪ ðə ˈpɔːtrɪt|

Wuer hi had lokt o’wei de portreit

Él se situaba delante del cuadro que había pintado Basil Hallward

He would place himself in the front of the painting that Basil Hallward had painted (Chap 10)

hi wʊd ˈpleɪs hɪmˈself ɪn ðə frʌnt əv ðə ˈpeɪntɪŋ ðət ˈbæzl̩ ˈhɒlwərd həd ˈpeɪntɪd |

He wud pleis hímself in de front of the peinting dat bássel holwuard had peintid

 

To sum up:

-The “past perfect” is usually used to speak about an action that happened in the past before another action that also happened in the past. Example: I had already read the newspaper (action that happened before) when he called me (this action).

Please note that the translation into Spanish is: “había”.

 

-The past perfect is also used in the third conditional (also called the past or impossible conditional). In this case it is always preceded by “if”. Example:

 

-If I had known I would have called you. Si lo hubiera sabido te habría llamado.

Notice that the translation in this case is “Hubiera/Hubiese”.

We’ll talk about this type of conditional in lesson 17.

- As the past perfect is a relatively easy tense to learn and reproduce, use it to practise the past participles.

 

 

Homework

Continue looking for the past perfect from chapters 11 to 19.

Try to ask and answer questions aloud using the sentences that you find in the past perfect, for example:

  • She had disappointed him.
  • Had she disappointed him?
  • Yes, she had.
  • No, she hadn’t.

 

Translate the following sentences.

The answers are found at the end. Once you have corrected any mistakes, say the sentences aloud. If you have doubts on how to pronounce these sentences, please, use www.fromtexttospeech.com or similar software.

  1. ¿Habían ellos ya visto la película?
  2. No sé si ellos habían venido antes a este tipo de eventos
  3. Nosotros habíamos alquilado una barca para (poder) ir al río
  4. Ella había hecho la compra cuando yo llegué
  5. Él no le había perdonado su error (de ella)
  6. Ellos me habían dado ya las entradas
  7. Yo no había dicho eso
  8. ¿De verdad habías conseguido entrar antes que nosotros?
  9. Ellos se habían comido todo cuando yo les llamé
  10. ¿Quién había visto esto antes?

 
Answers

  1. Had they already seen the film (movie)?
  2. I don’t know if they had come to this type (kind) of event before.
  3. We had rented a boat to go to the river – to be able to go to the river.
  4. She had done the shopping when I arrived.
  5. He hadn’t forgiven her mistake
  6. They had already given me the tickets
  7. I hadn’t said that
  8. Had you really been able to get in ahead of (before) us?
  9. They had eaten everything when I called them.
  10. Who had seen this before?