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The past perfect, also called the pluperfect, is a verb tense that distinguishes between two related things that happened in the past, indicating which one occurred before the other. The use of the past perfect is very similar in French and English.
The past perfect is used for the verb that happened first, the one that is further in the past. The action that occurred second is usually stated with another past tense, such as the passé composé or imperfect.
|J’avais enfin trouvé une rose parfaite quand il a commencé à pleuvoir.||I’d finally found a perfect rose when it started to rain.|
|Elle avait fini tout le travail quand je suis parti.||She had finished all the work when I left.|
|– Tu n’as pas répondu à la porte hier soir.
– Je m’étais couché très tôt.
|– You didn’t answer the door last night.
– I’d gone to sleep very early.
|J’avais fini tout le travail avant de partir.||I had finished all the work before leaving.|
|Il m’avait téléphoné avant la fête.
(avant que nous soyons allés à la fête)
|He’d called me before the party.
(before we went to the party)
|J’ai fini tout le travail et puis je suis parti.||I finished all the work, then I left.|
|J’ai fait la lessive et Ana a tondu le gazon.||I did the laundry and Ana mowed the lawn.|
The past perfect is used without a subsequent action in hypothetical si clauses – when something could or would have happened if a condition, stated with the past perfect, had been met.
|Si j’avais fini le travail, je serais parti tôt.||If I had finished the work, I would have left early.|
|Tu aurais réussi à l’examen si tu avais étudié.||You would have passed the test if you had studied.|
Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the French pluperfect with this fill-in-the-blank exercise: La soirée de mes rêves