Past Perfect Simple
The past perfect is used to talk about states or actions that existed or were completed before a time or action in the past.
Usage and construction
The past perfect is used to talk about states or actions that existed or were completed before a time or action in the past. The oldest action is described with the present perfect, and the most recent action is usually described with the past simple. The Past Perfect Simple construction is 'subject' + 'had' + verb past participle.
She had already left when I arrived.
Here, the past perfect is used to describe the action 'leave', which happened before the past action 'arrive'.
When I met Paul, he told me that he had been sacked from his job.
Here, the past perfect is used to describe the action 'to be sacked' which happened before the past actions 'meet' and 'told'.
The rain had stopped by the time I finished work.
Here, the action of 'stop' happened before the action 'finish work'.
Paul had always wanted to travel to Africa.
Here, no past time is specified, which means the action/state of 'want' occurred before Paul died, or that he had successfully travelled to Africa in the unspecified past.
If past actions are described in chronological order, we do not need to use the past perfect, and the past simple can be used.
I woke up at 7.30, I got up, I washed and ate breakfast.
I went to Oxford University and after graduating I got a job in Paris. After working there for 10 years I was promoted to manager.
The past perfect is only used to emphasize that one action happened before another past action. 'Already' can be used with the present perfect to emphasize that one action happened before another.
When I arrived at the shop I discovered that it had already closed.
Before I got home, I had already heard the bad news on the radio.
Adding "just" to the past perfect indicates the oldest action was completed only a short time before a second action:
He had just eaten lunch when I arrived. (They finished 5 minutes before I arrived)
I arrived at 5.15pm but she had just gone. (She had gone 5 minutes before I arrived)
The past perfect is often used to talk about hypothetical situations with "if" in the 3rd conditional:
I would not have come if I had known he was ill.
If I had known it was such a bad film, I wouldn't have gone to see it.