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The Plusquamperfekt (Past Perfect Tense) in German

Updated: Apr 5

In German, as in English, the Plusquamperfekt describes actions or events that precede another point in the past, which has been expressed in the Perfekt or Präteritum tense. So it is a useful tense as it allows you to distinguish between events that date further back in the past relative to other past events. Unlike English, the past perfect is constructed with two auxiliary verbs.

It is constructed just like Perfekt tense with an auxiliary verb and the past participle of the main verb, except that the auxiliary verbs "haben" and "sein" are in their Präteritum forms "hatte" or "war."

Sie hatten ein antikes Kunstwerk bewundert, als sie im Museum waren.

(They had admired an ancient artwork, when they were in the museum_

Er hatte schon viele Jahre in Großbritannien gelebt, bevor er Schottland besuchte.

(He had lived in the UK for many years before he visited Scotland)

Sie hatte schon viele deutsche Freunde und war oft nach Deutschland gereist, bevor sie Deutsch lernte.

(She had many German friends and had often travelled to Germany before she studied German)

Wir waren schon oft im Park laufen gegangen, bis wir erkannten, wie schön der Park eigentlich war.

(We had often gone for a run in the park until we realised how beautiful the park actually was)

Als sie Tennis gespielt hatte, war sie verletzt worden (here, we use the passive in German)

(When she played tennis, she had been injured)

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