REALLY SIMPLE ENGLISH GRAMMAR – Avoiding Past Perfect

Lots of students struggle with Present Perfect and Past Perfect, and with some reason, as they are more complex than, for example, Simple Past.  Many student confuse Past Perfect and Present Perfect.  Past Perfect is always about the past, but half the time, Present Perfect is also about the past.  Very confusing.  (See the previous post on this topic).

What I like about Past Perfect is 1)  It has only one use, and 2) You can avoid using it if you want to.

The One Use  –  comparing 2 events in the past.  The older (earlier) one uses the Past Perfect.  The other half of the sentence (there must be two parts, or two time references close together) use Simple Past.  So, for example, “I went to see The Hobbit, but they had sold out.”  As you can see, the selling of all the tickets (“sold out”) happens before the speaker arrives at the movie.  Both events are in the past, but one (the Past Perfect bit) is earlier.  It is always earlier.

This can be a bit confusing at times.  If it is, just don’t use it (sorry, other grammar teachers, but we have to be practical).  Instead of Past Perfect, use a time marker word (before, after, already, when, etc.) to give the same information.  So, as above, “I went to see The Hobbit, but they were already sold out.”

Stay tuned for more simple grammar from EC San Francisco.

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