French Past Perfect - Pluperfect

Grammaire: Plus-que-parfait

Boy eating sandwich
"Il n'avait pas mangé (avant de faire ses devoirs)." He hadn't eaten (before doing his homework). Daniel Grill / Getty Images

The French past perfect, or pluperfect, is used to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action in the past. The latter can be either mentioned in the same sentence or implied.

   Il n'avait pas mangé (avant de faire ses devoirs).
   He hadn't eaten (before doing his homework).

   J'ai fait du shopping ce matin ; j'avais déjà fait la lessive.
   I went shopping this morning; I had already done the laundry.

   J'étais déjà sorti (quand tu as téléphoné).
   I had already left (when you called).

   Nous voulions te parler parce que nous ne t'avions pas vu hier.
   We wanted to talk to you because we didn't see you yesterday.

Expressing Hypotheticals

The pluperfect is also used in si clauses to express a hypothetical situation in the past contrary to what actually happened:

   Si tu m'avais demandé, j'aurais répondu.
   If you had asked me, I would have answered.

   Nous y serions allés si nous avions su.
   We would have gone if we had known.

The French past perfect is a compound conjugation, which means it has two parts:

  1. imperfect of the auxiliary verb (either avoir or être)
  2. past participle of the main verb

Note: Like all French compound conjugations, the past perfect may be subject to grammatical agreement:

  • When the auxiliary verb is être, the past participle must agree with the subject
  • When the auxiliary verb is avoir, the past participle may have to agree with its direct object

    French Past Perfect Conjugations

    AIMER (auxiliary verb is avoir)
    j'avais aimé nousavions aimé
    tuavais aimé vousaviez aimé
    avait aimé ils,
    avaient aimé
    DEVENIR (être verb)
    j'étais devenu(e) nousétions devenu(e)s
    tuétais devenu(e) vousétiez devenu(e)(s)
    ilétait devenu ilsétaient devenus
    elle était devenue ellesétaient devenues
    SE LAVER (pronominal verb)
    jem'étais lavé(e) nousnous étions lavé(e)s
    tut'étais lavé(e) vousvous étiez lavé(e)(s)
    ils'était lavé ilss'étaient lavés
    elle s'était lavée elless'étaient lavées
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    Your Citation
    Lawless, Laura K. "French Past Perfect - Pluperfect." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2017, Lawless, Laura K. (2017, September 7). French Past Perfect - Pluperfect. Retrieved from Lawless, Laura K. "French Past Perfect - Pluperfect." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 20, 2018).