What is the pluperfect and when do we use it?

The pluperfect is used to talk about actions further back in the past - events that had happened:

  • elle avait habité en France avant de venir en Angleterre - she had lived in France before coming to England

It's also used to report what somebody said:

  • « Marie est partie en vacances » - "Marie has gone on holiday" → il a dit que Marie était partie en vacances - he said that Marie had gone on holiday

How to form the pluperfect tense

To form the pluperfect, use the imperfect tense of avoir or être and add the past participle of the main verb.

  • j'avais mangé avant de partir - I had eaten before leaving
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Note that the agreements of using the perfect tense with être apply here too: for a feminine subject add -e, for plural add -s and for feminine plural add -es.
  • tu étais partie quand je suis arrivé - you had left when I arrived