When to use the Plus-Que-Parfait: the Ultimate Guide in 2021

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In this French grammar lesson we will learn about when to use the plus-que-parfait.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • when to use the plus-que-parfait
  • how the plus-que-parfait is used in sentences
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use the plus-que-parfait
  • how you can download the Anki files for when to use the plus-que-parfait

Please refer to the French B2 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar, if you are curious about how this fits in the overall structure of French B2.

Please also read how to form the plus-que-parfait, to find out how you can form it.

By the end of the lesson, you will know all about when to use the plus-que-parfait!

Table of Contents

When to use the Plus-Que-Parfait

You will use the plus-que-parfait to express that an action happened before another action in the past.

Sometimes this is also called “the past of the past”.

Please have a look at the following examples.

appeler

J’étais heureux, parce que tu m’avais appelé.

I was happy, because you had called me.

What happend first was that you had called me.

What happend second was that this made me happy.

oublier

J’étais en colère, parce que Thomas avait oublié mon anniversaire.

I was angry, because Thomas had forgotten my birthday.

What happend first was that Thomas forgot your birthday.

What happend second was that this made you angry.

partir

Quand Gabriel est arrivé, Blaise était déjà parti.

When Gabriel arrived, Blaise had already left.

What happend first was that Blaise had left.

What happend second was that Gabriel arrived

As you can see, the oldest of the two actions uses the plus-que-parfait.

The subsequent action uses either the passé composé or the imparfait.

  • oldest action = plus-que-parfait
  • subsequent action = passé composé / imparfait

You can also use the plus-que-parfait on its own.

It all depends on the context.

atteindre

Ils avaient été en retard.

They had been late.

These people had been late.

We don’t know what the subsequent action is because it is not given in the sentence.

You will need to have the context to know what this “subsequent action” is.

être

Nous avions été malheureux ensemble.

We had been miserable together.

In the past these people had been miserable together.

Something happend after this, but we don’t know what happend afterwards.

It is not given in the sentence.

These two examples are given to show you, that you don’t have to use the passé composé and imparfait, whenever you want to use the plus-que-parfait.

However, in daily life, the “subsequent action” will be understood or given through your conversations.

To conclude, the plus-que-parfait is used to express that an action happened before another action in the past.

Example Sentences on When to use the Plus-Que-Parfait

The final section of this lesson on when to use the plus-que-parfait is about seeing the plus-que-parfait in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding of when to use the plus-que-parfait through examples.

appeler

J’étais heureux, parce que tu m’avais appelé.

I was happy, because you had called me.

oublier

J’étais en colère, parce que Thomas avait oublié mon anniversaire.

I was angry, because Thomas had forgotten my birthday.

partir

Quand Gabriel est arrivé, Blaise était déjà parti.

When Gabriel arrived, Blaise had already left.

atteindre

Ils avaient été en retard.

They had been late.

être

Nous avions été malheureux ensemble.

We had been miserable together.

Test Your Knowledge on When to use the Plus-Que-Parfait

It’s not enough just to read the lesson on this subject.

You should test your knowledge to see if you really understood everything, and to be able to repeat the material.

It is also for this reason that it is recommended to download the Anki Decks and do them.

At the end of every lesson you can do a small test.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter. It is up to you to give the correct answer.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the test as many times as you want. There’s no limit to it!

Anki File for When to use the Plus-Que-Parfait

It is important to do the Anki excercises for this lesson, so that you can remember what you just studied.

By downloading the Anki File for French B2 you can practice every French B2 lesson that is on Language Atlas.

At this moment the Anki File for this lesson doesn’t exist yet. However, in due time this will be available on Language Atlas.

If you don’t know why you should use Anki, or don’t know how to use Anki or merge Anki files please click here.

Anki can be downloaded from here.

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