Le plus-que-parfait

French Grammar (see all)

Want to improve your French? Test our online French lessons for free!

Le 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 être or avoir) plus a past participle of the main verb.
Victor n’avait pas dormi. conjugaison Victor hadn’t slept.
Muriel et Marcel étaient arrivés en avance. conjugaison 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 parlé de notre mission pour l’AIGF. conjugaison We had talked about our assignment for the AIGF.
Muriel avait travaillé toute la nuit. conjugaison Muriel had worked all night long.

•  For actions which occur before other past actions (those that use the passé composé, imperfect, or passé simple tenses)
Quand je me suis réveillée, Victor était déjà parti travailler. conjugaison When I woke up, Victor had already left.
Le jardin était inondé, il avait plu pendant une semaine. conjugaison 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 allé beaucoup plus vite. If I’d had a car, I would have gone much faster. conjugaison
Nous aurions pris l’ascenseur s’il n’avait pas été en panne. We would have taken the lift, if it hadn’t been out of order.conjugaison

Note: To respect the correct sequence of tenses, we use the Si + past perfect → past conditional construction.

Still having difficulties with Le plus-que-parfait? Want to improve your French? Test our online French lessons and receive a free level assessment!

Do you have smart way of remembering this rule? A tip to avoid making a mistake on Le plus-que-parfait? Share it with us!