The pluperfect (from Latin plus quam perfectum more than perfect), also called past perfect in English, is a grammatical combination of past tense with the perfect, itself a combination of tense and aspect, that exists in most Indo-European languages though there is not one in Irish. It is used to refer to an event that had continuing relevance to a past time.[dubious ] Comrie[1]:p.64 classifies the pluperfect as an absolute-relative tense because it absolutely (not by context) establishes a deixis (the past event) and places the action relative to the deixis (before it).

In the sentence "A man who for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit of all possible suffering now found that suffering had no limits, and that he could suffer still more, and more intensely" (from Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning), "had thought" and "had reached" are examples of the pluperfect. They refer to an event (a man thinking he has reached the limit of his capacity to suffer), which takes place before another event (the man discovering that his capacity to suffer has no limit), that are still relevant at the time of the later event. Because that second, subsequent event is itself a past event and the past tense is used to refer to it ("a found"), the pluperfect is needed to make it clear that the first event (reaching the limit) has taken place even earlier in the past.


Types of pluperfect

Past continuous

There are generally two types of pluperfect, corresponding to the two types of perfect:[citation needed]

  • Pluperfect of state, where the consequence of some event is associated with that event during a narration in the past tense: "He saw that the door had opened, and children were running through it." is nearly the same as "...He saw that the door was open, and children...” A pluperfect of state is, in association to the fact of the action, midway between the past tense (the door opened yesterday) and the predicate adjective that is the past participle (the door has been open since yesterday).[citation needed]
  • Pluperfect of action, where a series of pluperfect sentences carry a narration. This pluperfect is allied more closely to the usual preterite in English. It serves only to place a narration in the "more distant past", without determining its particular time or duration, as follows: "He had risen early that morning and had drunk coffee earlier than usual."[citation needed]

Examples from various languages

While some languages like Latin have special verb forms for the pluperfect and do not need to use auxiliary verbs, most modern European languages combine auxiliary verbs and past participles.

In the English language, the pluperfect is often called the past perfect. It is formed by combining the auxiliary verb had with the past participle. While the English present perfect cannot be accompanied by an adverb precisely specifying when the action takes place, the same is not true of the English pluperfect: *"I have gone last Friday" is incorrect, whereas "I had gone the previous Friday" is correct.[1]:pp.78-79

In German, the pluperfect (Plusquamperfekt or Vorvergangenheit, lit. pre-past) is used in much the same manner, normally in a nachdem sentence. The Plusquamperfekt is formed with the Partizip Perfekt (Partizip II) of the full lexical verb, plus the auxiliary verb haben or sein in its preterite form, depending on the full lexical verb in question. For example: Nachdem ich aufgestanden war, ging ich ins Badezimmer. After I had got up, I went into the bathroom.

In Dutch, the pluperfect (Voltooid verleden tijd) is formed similarly as in German: the voltooid deelwoord is combined with an auxiliary declination of hebben or zijn, depending on the full lexical verb: Voordat ik er erg in had, was het al twaalf uur geworden. - Before I noticed, it had become noon already. In addition, pluperfect is sometimes used instead of present perfect: Dat had ik al gezien (voordat jij het zag) - lit.: I had seen that (before you did). The parenthesized part is implied and, therefore, can be omitted.

In French the indicative pluperfect is formed by taking the appropriate form of the indicative imperfect of the auxiliaries avoir or être and adding the past participle, j'avais mangé.

In Italian there are two pluperfects in the indicative mood: the recent pluperfect (trapassato prossimo) is formed correspondingly to French by using the imperfect of the appropriate auxiliary verb (essere or avere) plus the past participle. For example, Ero affamato perché non avevo mangiato I was hungry because I had not eaten. The remote pluperfect (trapassato remoto) is formed by using the preterite of the appropriate auxiliary verb plus the past participle. In the Italian consecutio temporum, the trapassato remoto should be used for completed actions in a clause subjugated to a clause whose verb is in the preterite.

  • Example (remote pluperfect): "Dopo che lo ebbi trovato, lo vendetti". (After finding it, I sold it)
  • Example (recent pluperfect): "Dopo che lo avevo trovato, l'ho venduto". (After finding it, I used to sell it)

In Spanish, the pluperfect (pluscuamperfecto, or antecopretérito) is (similarly) formed from the imperfect of the auxiliary verb haber plus the past participle. For example, Había comido cuando vino mi madre. I had eaten when my mother came.

In Portuguese, there is a synthetic pluperfect (mais-que-perfeito). For example, Quando cheguei soube que o meu amigo morrera 'When I came I found out that my friend had died'. Its use has become mostly literary, however, and in spoken Portuguese, the pluperfect is usually formed using the auxiliary verb ter plus the past participle. For example, Quando cheguei soube que o meu amigo tinha morrido. A more formal way of expressing the pluperfect uses the verb "haver". For example: Quando cheguei soube que o meu amigo havia morrido.

In Judeo-Spanish, the Latin pluperfect forms with little alteration have been preserved (e.g. final /m/ and /t/ are dropped) to express this tense (pluskuamperfekto), which is identical in form to the imperfect subjunctive. It has a similar form to the Portuguese, thus the Portuguese example above in Jidyo is, Kuando yegí suve ke mi haver morera 'When I came I knew that my friend had died'. It remains the main spoken form, though in some varieties, similarly to Spanish or Portuguese, the pluperfect is formed using the auxiliary verbs tener or aver plus the past participle. For example, Kuando yegí suve ke mi haver tuve morido or Kuando yegí suve ke mi haver avía morido.

In Romanian, the pluperfect (mai mult ca perfectul) is expressed without any auxiliary words, using a particular form of the verb, originated in the Latin pluperfect subjunctive.[2] (compare Italian imperfect subjunctive Sembrava che Elsa non venisse with Romanian pluperfect Părea Elsa nu venise). For example, in Când l-am întrebat, el văzuse deja filmul 'When I asked him, he had already seen the movie'. The verb văzuse is in the pluperfect form of a vedea 'to see'. Technically, this form is obtained from the singular third person form of the simple perfect tense by adding specific terminations for each person and number. However, in northern Transylvania there is a regional way to state the pluperfect (that may reflect the German influence). The pluperfect is expressed by combining the auxiliary verb fost or the short version "fo'" (= "was" in English or "war" in German) with the participle, which (quite difficult to explain) is stated in its feminine form. Examples: "o fost foastă" (or "o fo' foastă") = he had been; "am fost văzută" = I had been seen; "or fost venită" = they had come.

In Galician, the pluperfect ( Pretérito pluscuamperfecto) is a simple tense formed by inflecting the verb: fuxiras you (sg.) had fled.

Unlike Russian, which today has only remnants of pluperfect,[vague] the Ukrainian language and the Belarusian language still preserve a distinct pluperfect (давньоминулий час or запрошлы часdavn'omynulyj čas or zaprošły čas) that is formed by preceding the verb with buv / bula in Ukrainian and byŭ / była in Belarusian (literally, 'was'). It was and still is used in daily speech, especially in rural areas. Being mostly unused in literature during Soviet times, it is now regaining popularity. Here is an example of usage: Ja vže buv pіšov, až raptom zhadav... (Ukrainian) and Ja ŭžo byŭ pajšoŭ, kali raptam zhadaŭ (Belarusian) I almost had gone already when I recalled...

In Slovenian, the pluperfect (predpreteklik, 'before the past') is formed with the verb 'to be' (biti) in past tense and the participle of the main verb. It is used to denote a completed action in the past before another action (Pred nekaj leti so bile vode poplavile vsa nabrežja Savinje, 'A few years ago, all the banks of Savinja River had been flooded) or, with a modal verb, a past event that should have happened (Moral bi ti bil povedati, 'I should have told you'). Its use is considered archaic and is used rarely even in the written literary language.

In Polish, it is constructed with an auxiliary verb być 'to be' in a past tense, third person only. It is now old fashioned, used only in the formal register. Example: Powinieneś był to zrobić You should have done it.[dubious ]

In Serbian and Croatian, the pluperfect ("pluskvamperfekt") is constructed with the past tense ("perfekt") of the verb to be¨("biti") plus the adjective form of the main verb. For example: "Ja sam bio učio", which means, "I had been studying".

In Finnish, the pluperfect (pluskvamperfekti) is constructed with an auxiliary verb olla 'to be', which is in the past tense. The primary verbs get the past participle endings -nyt/-nut in singular, -neet in plural forms (the 'n' assimilates with certain consonants) and -ttu/-tty/-tu/-ty in passive forms. Still, there are some irregularities, for example me olimme olleet we had been, the primary verb is irregular.

In Latin, the pluperfect (plus quam perfectum) is formed without an auxiliary verb in the active voice and with an auxiliary verb plus the perfect passive participle in the passive voice. For example, in the indicative mood, pecuniam mercatori dederat (He had given money to the merchant), and Pecunia mercatori datus erat (Money had been given to the merchant). The subjunctive mood is formed similarly (Dedisset and Datus sit, respectively). Often, an ablative absolute phrase, using a noun and perfect participle in the ablative case, may be used where a pluperfect clause would be used in English. (Pecunia mercatori data, cessit emptor, When money had been given to the merchant, the buyer left.)

 English German Latin Romanian Portuguese Spanish Italian French ٍGreek (Modern) Bulgarian Macedonian Polish (extinct)
I had heard ich hatte gehört audiveram auzisem / am fost auzit(ă) eu ouvira / tinha ouvido / havia ouvido había oído avevo sentito j'avais entendu είχα ακούσει бях чул бев слушнал ja słyszałem/-am był/była
you had heard du hattest gehört audiverās auziseşi / ai fost auzit(ă) tu ouviras / tinhas ouvido / havias ouvido habías oído avevi sentito tu avais entendu είχες ακούσει бе(ше) чул беше слушнал ty słyszałeś/-aś był/była
he/she had heard er/sie hatte gehört audiverat auzise / a fost auzit(ă) ele/ela ouvira / tinha ouvido / havia ouvido había oído aveva sentito il/elle avait entendu είχε ακούσει бе(ше) чул беше слушнал/-а/-о on/ona/ono słyszał/-a/-o była/była/było
we had heard wir hatten gehört audiverāmus auziserăm / am fost auziti nós ouvíramos / tínhamos ouvido / havíamos ouvido habíamos oído avevamo sentito nous avions entendu είχαμε ακούσει бяхме чули бевме слушнале my słyszeliśmy/-ałyśmy byli/były
you had heard ihr hattet gehört audiverātis auziserăţi / aţi fost auziti vós ouvíreis / tínheis ouvido / havíeis ouvido habíais oído avevate sentito vous aviez entendu είχατε ακούσει бяхте чули бевте слушнале wy słyszeliście/--ałyście byli/były
they had heard sie hatten gehört audiverant auziseră / au fost auziţi eles ouviram / tinham ouvido / haviam ouvido habían oído avevano sentito ils/elles avaient entendu είχαν ακούσει бяха чули беа слушнале oni, one słyszeli/-ały byli/były

See also


  1. ^ a b Comrie, Bernard, Tense, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985.
  2. ^ Manuela Nevaci. "Observații privind structura și evoluția conjunctivului în aromână" (in Romanian). Universitatea „Ovidius” Constanţa. p. 2. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pluperfect — Plu per fect, a. [L. plus more + perfectus perfect; cf. F. plus que parfait, L. plusquamperfectum.] More than perfect; past perfect; said of the tense which denotes that an action or event was completed at or before the time of another past… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pluperfect — 1520s, shortened from L. (tempus praeteritum) plus (quam) perfectum (past tense) more (than) perfect. Translates Gk. khronos hypersyntelikos. See PLUS (Cf. plus) and PERFECT (Cf. perfect) …   Etymology dictionary

  • pluperfect — ► ADJECTIVE Grammar ▪ (of a tense) denoting an action completed prior to some past point of time, formed in English by had and the past participle (as in he had gone by then). ORIGIN from Latin plus quam perfectum more than perfect (referring to… …   English terms dictionary

  • pluperfect — [plo͞o′pʉr΄fikt, plo͞o΄pʉr′fikt] adj. [LL plusquamperfectus < L plus quam perfectum, lit., more than perfect] 1. Gram. designating or of the past perfect tense in any of certain languages corresponding to the past perfect in English 2.… …   English World dictionary

  • pluperfect — /plooh perr fikt/ adj. 1. Gram. a. perfect with respect to a point of reference in past time, as had done in He had done it when I came. b. designating a tense or other verb formation or construction with such meaning, as Latin portaveram I had… …   Universalium

  • pluperfect — /pluˈpɜfəkt / (say plooh perfuhkt) Grammar –adjective 1. perfect with respect to a temporal point of reference in the past. For example, in He had done it when I came , had done is pluperfect in relation to came since the action was brought to a… …  

  • pluperfect — Preterpluperfect Pre ter*plu per fect, a. & n. [Pref. preter + pluperfect.] (Gram.) Old name of the tense also called {pluperfect}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pluperfect — adjective Etymology: Middle English pluperfyth, modification of Late Latin plusquamperfectus, literally, more than perfect Date: 15th century 1. past perfect 2. utterly perfect or complete • pluperfect noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • pluperfect — 1. adjective a) More than perfect b) Pertaining to action completed before or at the same time as another 2. noun a) The pluperfect tense b) A …   Wiktionary

  • pluperfect — plu|per|fect [plu:ˈpə:fıkt US ə:r ] n [Date: 1400 1500; : Late Latin; Origin: plusquamperfectus more than perfect ] the pluperfect technical the ↑past perfect tense of a verb …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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