Past perfect


The past perfect tense Plusquamperfekt is used to describe events in the past that took place before something else in the past.

Building sentences in the Plusquamperfekt tense

hatte/war + Partizip II

A sentence in Plusaquamperfekt is formed in the following way: haben/sein in the Präteritum (hatte/war) form + Partizip II (for regular verbs: ge- + verb stem + -t).

  • Translation
  • We had done the homework before we went to cinema.
  • Explanation
  • wir + haben + machen 👉 wir hatten + ge- + mach + -t 👉 wir hatten gemacht
  • Translation
  • By the time the police arrived, the thief had already run away.
Person hatte + lernen (Partizip II) war + reisen (Partizip II)
ich hatte gelernt war gereist
du hattest gelernt warst gereist
er/sie/es hatte gelernt war gereist
wir hatten gelernt waren gereist
ihr hattet gelernt wart gereist
sie/Sie hatten gelernt waren gereist


Order of events in the past

The tense Plusquamperfekt is used when we want to describe an activity/event that took place in the past before another activity/event in the past.

  • Translation
  • Before I moved to Germany, I had been learning German for 10 years.
  • Explanation
  • The part of the sentences describing the earlier activity/event is always in the tense Plusquamperfekt 👉 hatte gelernt and the subsequent activity/event in the tense Präteritum 👉 zog (ziehen - zog - gezogen).
The conjunction nachdem

The Plusquamperfekt tense is most commonly used to describe the order of events in the past in sentences with the conjunction nachdem (after ... then ...).

  • Translation
  • After I finished my studies, I went on a trip around the world.
  • Explanation
  • The earlier activity (graduation) in the Plusquamperfekt tense 👉 hatte abgeschlossen, and the later activity (going on a trip around the world) in the Präteritum tense 👉 gingen (gehen - ging - gegangen).