The past perfect tense


What is the past perfect tense?

The past perfect tense, also called the pluperfect tense, is one of the three past tenses in German. It is used when speaking or writing about the past to refer to events that happened earlier:

Gestern traf ich Karl. Wir hatten uns seit 20 Jahren nicht gesehen.
Yesterday, I met Karl. We hadn’t seen each other for 20 years.

Formation of the past perfect

The past perfect tense is a compound tense. It is formed with the simple past tense of haben or sein + the past participle of the main verb:

Sie aß sehr wenig, denn sie hatte schon zu Mittag gegessen.
She ate very little because she had eaten lunch already.

Er wollte Spanish lernen, nachdem er durch Mexiko gereist war.
He wanted to learn Spanish after he had travelled through Mexico.