The past perfect tense

The past perfect is a compound tense, meaning that it is formed using the imperfect form of an auxiliary verb (avere, to have, or essere, to be) + the past participle of the verb.

Ciro non aveva dormito. dormire, trapassato prossimo

Ciro had not slept. dormire, trapassato prossimo

Ciro e Magda erano arrivati in anticipo. arrivare, trapassato prossimo

Ciro and Magda had arrived (literally, “were arrived”) early. arrivare, trapassato prossimo

We use the past perfect tense for the following:

  • To talk about an action that was completed in the past and had no effect on the present.

Avevamo parlato del nostro progetto con il capo dell’Hotel. parlare, trapassato prossimo

We had talked about our project with the boss of the hotel. parlare, trapassato prossimo

Magda aveva lavorato tutta la notte. lavorare, trapassato prossimo

Magda had worked all night. lavorare, trapassato prossimo

  • To talk about an action in the past that took place earlier than another moment or action that also occurred or took place in the past.

Quando mi sono svegliata, Ruggero era già uscito per andare a lavorare. uscire, trapassato prossimo

When I woke up, Ruggero had already left (literally, “was already left”) to go to work. uscire, trapassato prossimo

Ero affamato, perché non avevo mangiato per tutto il giorno. mangiare, trapassato prossimo

I was starving because I had not eaten all day. mangiare, trapassato prossimo

  • In indirect speech, when the passato prossimo (present perfect tense) is used in the direct speech that is being reported.

«Ho visto Giovanni.» → Chiara disse che aveva visto Giovanni. vedere, trapassato prossimo

"I've seen Giovanni" → Chiara said that she had seen Giovanni. vedere, trapassato prossimo

  • To express something that is happening for the first time, usually in a negative sentence.

Non avevo mai visto una cosa del genere fino ad ora. vedere, trapassato prossimo

I had never seen such a thing until now. vedere, trapassato prossimo

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