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 practice with flashcards on when to use the plus-que-parfait
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn French

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.

Quiz Yourself on When to use the Plus-Que-Parfait

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

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter.

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 quiz as many times as you want!

How to Practice With Flashcards for This Lesson

Using flashcards is an absolute necessity when it comes to learning a language!

It is the best way to memorize what you learn, you can personalize your progression because it adapts to your actions, and all flashcards have audio to improve your hearing and pronunciation.

Please read our article on how to learn a new language for more information.

There are two ways to practice with Flashcards for this lesson.

  1. Anki
  2. The Flashcards in our Courses

After you have downloaded Anki for free, you can get our French B2 Anki Deck.

This Anki Deck contains 1,964 flashcards with which you can practice absolutely everything for French B2!

All the flashcards have text, images, explanations, and audio.

You can also use our courses that have flashcards integrated alongside lessons with audio, quizzes and much more!

However, I am sure you are wondering, what are your courses, and why should I take them?

The Courses of Language Atlas

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I have been learning languages for over 20+ years and I was always frustrated with books, courses, and classes that I had tried.

It never really seemed to work for me.

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So I thought, “why not make something myself?“.

Using my experience and by doing research I created Language Atlas, a platform where people can learn French and Spanish in the most effective and efficient way.

I created free lessons and quizzes so that there would always be a easy and accessible way for people to learn or brush up on their language skills.

However, I also created courses that are much more comprehensive and in-depth.

The courses of Language Atlas have:

  • 800+ Lessons with audio
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  • 10,000 Flashcards with explanations, images, and audio
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You can register for free and try the French A0/A1 and Spanish A0/A1 Courses for free!

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