The French plus-que-parfait, also known as the pluperfect, is an important tense to learn as it allows you to express actions or events that occurred before another past action. Understanding and using the plus-que-parfait adds depth and precision to your storytelling and conversations in French.
Fortunately, forming the plus-que-parfait becomes easier if you have a solid understanding of the passé composé, as both tenses share similarities in their auxiliary verb construction.
Formation of Le Plus-Que-Parfait
1. The plus-que-parfait tense is formed by using the auxiliary verb “avoir” or “être” in the imparfait tense followed by the past participle of the main verb.
2. To form the imparfait tense of “avoir” or “être,” use the appropriate stem (“av-” or “ét-“) followed by the imparfait endings (-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient).
3. In negative sentences, place “ne” before the auxiliary verb and “pas” after it.
4. In “inversion type” questions, invert the subject and the auxiliary verb, placing a hyphen between them.
5. Pay attention to the agreement of the past participle with the subject in gender and number when using “être” as the auxiliary verb.
When To Use Le Plus-Que-Parfait
1. Use the plus-que-parfait tense to describe an action that occurred before another past action or event.
2. Use it when expressing a completed action that happened before another specific past event in the narrative.
3. When narrating a story or describing a sequence of events in the past, use the plus-que-parfait to express an action that happened earlier than the main past action.
4. When using time expressions such as “quand” (when), “lorsque” (when), “après que” (after), “avant que” (before), or “dès que” (as soon as) the plus-que-parfait is often used to describe the action that occurred before the main event.
5. When translating “had + past participle” in English, use the plus-que-parfait tense in French.
6. The plus-que-parfait can be used to add depth and nuance to your writing, showing a detailed timeline of past events.
7. Use the plus-que-parfait to provide background information or context for a past event or action.
8. In reported speech or indirect speech, the plus-que-parfait is used to express a past action that happened before the reported statement or thought.
9. When expressing a condition in the past, use the plus-que-parfait in si-clauses (if-clauses) followed by the past conditional in the main clause. These are called third conditional si clauses.
10. Use it to indicate a past action that was completed before another thing that happened at a specific point or time in the past.