AEE 1881: Past Perfect Grammar for Clarifying in English


We use past perfect grammar to talk about the past of the past.

There are moments in life when you need to share what happened before the past.

In today’s episode, Aubrey and Lindsay talk about how to use the past perfect verb tense in English.

This will help you give context to what happened before.

Today you’ll learn how to use it and why it is extremely useful in business English!

Talking about the past

Lindsay asks Aubrey how her Mexico trip went and if she would do something differently if she could go back.

Aubrey shares that they drove through a hurricane on the way to Mexico.

Had they known there would be a hurricane, they would have booked it on a different weekend.

It was a bit scary with high winds and the sand of the desert kicking up.

Lindsay asked her this to demonstrate the past perfect grammar tense.

Today’s question

An All Ears English listener sent in a question regarding past perfect.

Do you have any episodes about past perfect or future perfect?

I’ve only seen episodes about present perfect.

Also, if you’re doing future perfect, I see that you are using ‘will.’ When do we use would?

Julie Teng

A multiple-episode question!

Julie’s question shows that she is interested in elevating her English grammar.

There are several things to cover in this question.

It will take multiple episodes so be sure you’re following the podcast.

Lindsay and Aubrey will start by discussing past perfect usage.

Grammar breakdown

In today’s episode, Lindsay and Aubrey will break down the grammar for past perfect.

You’ll learn how and when you can use the past perfect tense.

You’ll also see how it can be very useful for clarifying in English!

You can build connections in English through the stories you tell.

Aubrey mentions that they talked about the past perfect tense in episode 1877: How Multiple English Verb Tenses Spice up a Story.

In that episode, they share multiple tenses to make your story interesting and hook your audience.

The past perfect tense is used for actions that were completed before some point in the past.

It’s vital to understand when to use it.

Past perfect tense

The formula of the past perfect tense is always the same.

It’s one of the easiest tenses to learn.

It doesn’t matter whether the subject is singular or plural.

Example:

  • I had misunderstood…
  • They had misunderstood…

Past perfect at work

This is a vital tense for clarifying in English.

It’s extremely useful at work.

This can help you clarify misunderstandings or explain when something goes wrong.

It is often the main time you hear native English speakers use the past perfect tense.

In order to maintain relationships at work and in life, you need this verb tense.

Example:

Co-Worker: I heard you’re organizing a happy hour. Why didn’t you invite me?

You: You had left for lunch when we talked about it. Of course you’re invited!

Using the word ‘already’

We often use ‘already’ with the past perfect tense.

Native English speakers add it to clarify or emphasize.

You can also use past perfect in the workplace.

It’s useful when you need to explain that something went wrong.

Example:

  • They had already started before I arrived.

Roleplay

In this episode, you heard many ways the past perfect tense can be used in daily conversations.

Here is a quick roleplay to give you a better understanding of how to use it.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Aubrey are co-workers.

They are debriefing after a meeting and are expressing how and what went wrong in their meeting.

Aubrey: Oh boy! That did not go well.

Lindsay: If I had known we were presenting today…

Aubrey: Right? If they hadn’t sprung it on us…

Lindsay: I tried to ask to postpone but it was too late. The client had already flown in for the presentation.

Trailing off

Something very native happened in the roleplay.

Lindsay cut off the second part of her sentence ending with “… presenting today…”

This happens when the next part of the sentence is implied or already known.

For the rest of the roleplay, a lot of past perfect tense is used.

Additionally, notice the contraction of “If I had known…”

Natives will usually use a contraction here and say, “If I’d known…”

Takeaway

The past perfect tense is often used to clarify misunderstandings.

It is worth learning because we don’t want to damage those relationships.

Practice this verb tense to better incorporate it into your conversations.

Tenses used incorrectly are noticeable to native English speakers, but they won’t call you out on it.

Communicating properly when you don’t want to be misunderstood is vital.

Explaining what happened is a good way to make that connection stronger.

Bring your English to a higher level by applying the lessons from this episode.

What is something you want to clarify at work using the past perfect tense?

Share it in the comments below.



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