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Past Perfect Tense – Use of “Had” on GMAT


Through this short video, understand the concept of past perfect tense, marked by the use of helping verb 'had'. The concept is of great use for the GMAT sentence correction questions.


Past Perfect Tense – Use of “Had” on GMAT

Past Perfect Tense - Use of "Had"


Tense is a topic that you must prepare very carefully, to score well on the GMAT sentence correction. It is particularly important to pay close attention to the perfect tense forms. While the simple tense forms are far more common, on the GMAT, the perfect tense forms pose a unique challenge. The perfect tense is only used under certain peculiar circumstances, making it difficult to identify exactly where it has been applied appropriately and inappropriately. In this short article, we will cover the form and use of one particular form of the perfect tense, the past perfect tense.

Past Perfect Tense


We will begin by learning how to identify the usage of the past perfect tense. The past perfect tense is marked by the use of the helping verb "had" and it is crucial to be able to identify when this tense is being used, on the GMAT. The past perfect tense is used when there are two actions in a sentence that occur at two different points in the past; the past perfect verb, marked by the word "had" is used to denote the action that takes place further in the past. Allow us to illustrate this concept, through an example.

Example 1 - Although the professor had completed the lecture, students stayed in the classroom.
There are two actions taking place in this sentence, both in the past, the professor completing the lecture and the students staying in the classroom. Of these two actions, the professor completing the lecture occurred first; thus, it is appropriate to use the past perfect tense to refer to it.

Exceptions


At this point, it is important to note that there are several exceptions to the usage of the past perfect tense. Consider the following sentence:

Example 2 -I had left before you arrived.
Now, one may think that since there are two actions happening in this sentence, "I" leaving and "you" arriving and because one happens before the other that it is correct to use the past perfect tense. However, due to the usage of the word "before", this sentence is incorrect. The word "before" clearly indicates which action happened first, so the use of the present perfect tense is redundant. The correct sentence would be:

Example 3 - I left before you arrived.

Let us take up another example:

Example 4 - Although the lecture had got over at 3 pm, students stayed in the classroom until 4 pm.
This question is rather similar to Example 1, however, this sentence is incorrect. As in Example 4, this sentence clearly indicates which even took place first, by providing exact timings, so using the past perfect tense is redundant. The correct sentence would be:

Example 5 - Although the lecture got over by 3 pm, the students stayed in the classroom until 4 pm.
This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to Experts' Global's Stage One Sentence Correction videos.

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