This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

## Wednesday, November 28, 2007

### Past Perfect Tense – The Most Often Misused Tense

The Past Perfect Tense (had + past participle, eg “had eaten”) is the most common misused tense by Singaporeans, students included.

Many of us say, “Mother had gone to the market”. This is grammatically wrong. The correct phrase is “Mother has gone to the market”.

The Past Perfect Tense can only be used when:

Condition 1: Mentioning a past action that has completed before another past action.

Condition 2: Mentioning a past action that has completed before a certain definite time.

Examples

Condition 1: Mentioning a past action that has completed before another past action.

In both Examples A and B, the first action that happened is in the Past Perfect Tense, while the second action that happened after the first, is in the Simple Past.

Condition 2: Mentioning a past action that has completed before a certain definite time.

In both Examples C and D, the action that has completed before a certain definite time, is in the Past Perfect Tense.

Question – Do you know why the sentence “Mother had gone to the market” is incorrect?

As seen from the four examples, the Past Perfect Tense can only be used, when there is another action that followed it, or when we mention an action that happened before a specific time. The sentence “Mother had gone to the market”, has only one action and has no reference to any specific time.

The correct phrase should be, “Mother has gone to the market”. This is the Present Perfect Tense (have/has + past participle). The Present Perfect is used when we mention an action that has recently happened.