What is the pluperfect tense and how is it formed?

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Subject: French/A Level

Q: How do I form the pluperfect and when do I use it? 

A: 

In French, the pluperfect tense is used to describe a completed event that has taken place before another event in the past. This is equivalent to the English 'had', for example: 

Before he came to my house, he had already eaten. 

You can remember the function of the pluperfect tense by thinking of its French title, plus-que-parfait, which literally translates as 'more than perfect.' Therefore, the title refers to the fact that this tense describes events that are 'more completed' as they occur before the perfect tense. 

In order to form the pluperfect tense, you will need to know: 
1. The French Subject Pronouns: Je, Tu, Il/Elle/On, Nous, Vous, Ils/Elles
2. The auxiliary verbs avoir and être in the imperfect tense: 
Avoir: j'avais, tu avais, il/elle/on avait, nous avions, vous aviez, ils/elles avaient
Être: j'étais, tu étais, il/elle/on était, nous étions, vous étiez, ils/elles étaient
3. The past participle of the verb in question (e.g. manger becomes mangé) and which auxiliary (avoir or être) it requires. 
4. The fact that verbs taking être and preceeding direct objects must agree with the subject in gender and quantity. For example: Elle était sortie avant qu'il n'est arrivé and Les maisons que j'avais achetées

Therefore, the formation of the pluperfect is very similar to that of the perfect. To decide which auxiliary a verb requires, you will need to distinguish between the verbs that take être, which can be remembered by the DR MRS VANDERTRAMP acrostic, and all other verbs which take aller. 
Devenir - Devenu
Revenir - Revenu 

Monter - Monté
Rester - Resté
Sortir - Sorti

Venir - Venu
Aller - Allé
Naitre - Né
Descendre - Descendu
Entrer - Entré
Rentrer - Rentré
Tomber - Tombé
Retourner - Retourné
Arriver - Arrivé
Mourir - Mort
Partir - Parti

Examples of the pluperfect: 
J'étais née avant...
Nous avions quittés la maison avant... 
Elles étaient montées...

 

Emily  W. A Level Extended Project Qualification tutor, GCSE English ...

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