3.04. Past Perfect (Plusquamperfekt) │ German Grammar

What is the  “Plusquamperfekt” ?

he “Plusquamperfect” is the German version of the English Past Perfect.

This expresses that an action occured before a specific time point in the past.

The past perfect is therefore always used when, while telling a story about the past, you want to look at something that occurred before that.


  • „Beim Fußballtunier schoss Jan drei Tore.“ (Simple Past)
  • „Er hatte vorher viel trainiert.“ (Past Perfect)
  • „Als er zu Hause angekommen ist,   (Perfect) hatte sie schon gegessen.“ (Past Perfect)

Overview Past Perfect

Overview german PAst perfect

Construction: Past Perfect

›We form the past perfect with the simple past of „sein“ or „haben“ + past participle.

PersonAuxiliary VerbPast ParticipleAuxiliary VerbPast Participle
du warsthattest
er/sie/es warhatte

Signal Words

There are some signal words that allude to the use of the past perfect.


  • Nachdem er die Prüfung bestanden hatte, hat er erstmal gefeiert.“


  • Bevor ich das Auto gekauft habe, hatte ich lange gespart.“


  • Als ich ankam, waren alle schon gegangen.“

Tip: Colloquial Language

In colloquial language, the past perfect is often (incorrectly) replaced by the present perfect or simple past tense.

Correct:   „Er hat das Rennen gewonnen. Er hatte vorher viel trainiert.“

But often:  „Er hat das Rennen gewonnen. Er hat vorher viel trainiert.“

Probably the majority of your German friends don´t use the past perfect in the correct way. I am sure if you check your own language you will find things that aren´t in use in the spoken language. But pay attention in exams! Grammatically the second version is always wrong!!

Further Information:

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