How do I form the pluperfect tense?

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We use the pluperfect tense to describe something or an action that had happened in the past. It is a really useful tense to know how to use and can help to elevate your German skills.

The pluperfect is formed using the imperfect tense of haben or sein as an auxiliary and the past participle. Whether you use haben or sein depends on the verb involved.

Example 1 (with haben as the auxiliary)

Let's use the verb machen (meaning 'to do' or 'to make') to form the pluperfect tense. This verb takes the auxiliary haben and its past participle is gemacht.

Ich hatte gemacht - I had done/made

Du hattest gemacht

Er/sie/es hatte gemacht

Wir hatten gemacht

Ihr hattet gemacht

Sie/sie hatten gemacht

Example 2 (with sein as the auxiliary)

Verbs of motion, verbs expressing a change of state/condition and some other verbs, such as bleiben, take sein as their auxiliary.

Let's use gehen (meaning 'to go') as an example of how to form the pluperfect tense using the auxiliary sein. Its past participle is gegangen.

Ich war gegangen - I had gone

Du warst gegangen

Er/sie/es war gegangen

Wir waren gegangen

Ihr wart gegangen

Sie/sie waren gegangen

The key things to know when forming the pluperfect are the past participle of the verb involved and whether the auxiliary is haben or sein. Good luck using the pluperfect tense!

Luthien  C. GCSE German tutor, A Level German tutor, GCSE English Lit...

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