The plus-que-parfait in French

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The plus-que-parfait

The plus-que-parfait is what’s known as a compound tense. It is formed with an auxiliary verb (the imperfect form of ĂȘtre or avoir) plus a past participle of the main verb.
Victor n’avait pas dormi. dormir, plus-que-parfait Victor hadn’t slept.
Muriel et Marcel étaient arrivés en avance. arriver, plus-que-parfait Muriel and Marcel had arrived early.
The plus-que-parfait is the equivalent of the past perfect or pluperfect tense in English (‘had + past participle’). We use it:
•  For actions in the past which are completed (irreversibly)
Nous avions parlĂ© de notre mission pour l’AIGF. parler, plus-que-parfait We had talked about our assignment for the AIGF.
Muriel avait travaillé toute la nuit. travailler, plus-que-parfait Muriel had worked all night long.
•  For actions which occur before other past actions (those that use the passĂ© composĂ©, imperfect, or passĂ© simple tenses)
Quand je me suis réveillée, Victor était déjà parti travailler. partir, plus-que-parfait When I woke up, Victor had already left for work.
Le jardin était inondé, il avait plu pendant une semaine. pleuvoir, plus-que-parfait The garden was flooded, it had rained for a week.
•  For hypothetical situations in the past, when expressing wishes about the past.
Si j’avais eu une voiture, je serais allĂ© beaucoup plus vite. If I’d had a car, I would have gone much faster. avoir, plus-que-parfait
Nous aurions pris l’ascenseur s’il n’avait pas Ă©tĂ© en panne. We would have taken the lift, if it hadn’t been out of order.ĂȘtre, plus-que-parfait
Note: To respect the correct sequence of tenses, we use the Si + past perfect → past conditional construction.


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