The Pluperfect Tense: Le Plus-Que-Parfait

The plus-que-parfait is used in French to go back in time as far as possible from the present. It is more distant than both the passé composé and the imparfait; in a sense, you can think of it as French's “oldest” tense. In English, this tense is usually achieved by using “had” as the auxiliary word in front of the verb.

Now that you have learned the passé composé and the imparfait, the plus-que-parfait should be relatively easy for you. In a sense, its formation is a combination of both the other tenses. It uses the same past participle as is used to construct the passé composé, but instead of using the present-tense conjugation of the auxiliary verb avoir or être, it uses the imparfait. As for the choice of auxiliary verb (avoir or être), verbs conjugated in the plus-que-parfait will use the same auxiliary verb as if it had been conjugated in the passé composé.

For these reasons, the plus-que-parfait is fairly easy to construct after you have mastered the other past tenses. Note the following examples.

TRACK 60

<tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="60%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="40%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>J'avais déjà vu le film avant d'aller en France</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>I had already seen the film before going to France.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Il avait dîné quand je suis arrivé</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>He had had dinner by the time I arrived.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Ils étaient déjà nés quand leur père est arrivé à l'hôpital</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>They had already been born when their father arrived at the hospital.</p></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Elle avait fini l'article quand il a appelé</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>She had finished the article when he called.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>As a rule, the <emphasis>plus-que-parfait</emphasis> is used to indicate a time relationship, so you almost never find it used on its own. When you do come across it, it will usually be used to show chronology: that some event took place before another, more recent event, whether it was a continuous state as indicated by the <emphasis>imparfait</emphasis> or a specific action or event that took place at a discernible moment in time, as indicated by the <emphasis>passé composé</emphasis>.</p> <!--/gc--> <div id="pagination"><ul><li class="prev"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-past-tense-verbs/the-imperfect-past-tense-limparfait.htm" title="The Imperfect Past Tense: L'Imparfait">The Imperfect Past Tense: L'Imparfait</a></li><li class="next"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-past-tense-verbs/choosing-the-appropriate-past-tense.htm" title="Choosing the Appropriate Past Tense">Choosing the Appropriate Past Tense</a> </li></ul></div></div> <div id="coda"> <div id="rel"><div class="n5">Related Articles</div><ul> <li><a 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