This formation means 'double past -- a time before another time in the past'. We use the past tense of the auxiliary verb have (Unit 17) before the past participle (Unit 14). Don't forget that many participles are irregular (Appendix 10).

Formation (had + past participle)


They had all worked very hard that day.
She had gone by air to save time.
I hadn't put the address at the top.


you seen the man before?
How much had he taken?

NOTICE: There is also a continuous formation. The past participle is been and the -ing form follows:

The weather had been getting worse all day.
He had not been expecting me.
Had they been fighting?

NOTICE: Had can be an AUXILIARY and a LEXICAL verb (Unit 3).

EXAMPLE: For three days, the men had not had any food.


To give the situation or the background to a story that began in the past:

When we got to the job site, they all cried out in surprise. It was the first time they had ever seen an oil rig.
We did not think we could finish the pipeline on schedule. Our survey crew had lost their equipment in some muskeg two days before.
The crews had been looking for the equipment for hours when the rain began.

NOTICE: We can use the past perfect to show which happened first:

I tried to open the door but somebody had locked it from the other side.
[First somebody locked it, then I tried to open it.]

I tried to open the door but somebody locked it from the other side.
[These two things happened at the same time.]

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Exercise 26.1
Exercise 26.2
Exercise 26.3
Exercise 26.4