German tenses in use: Plusquamperfekt Posted by Sandra Rösner on Dec 19, 2011 in Language
The German Plusquamperfekt tense is equivalent to the English Past Perfect tenses (both the simple and the progressive form). Thus, you use this tense in order to refer to an action or actions that had happened before another action in the past.
But the German Plusquamperfekt is seldom used in independent statements. It is rather used for the chronological course of actions that happened in the past.
Er hatte bis 20 Uhr gearbeitet. Dann traf er sich mit seinen Freunden.
(He had worked till 8 p.m. Then he met up with his friends.)
Please, note that you would use the Simple Past tense in English here:
He worked till 8 p.m. Then he met up with his friends.
You form active sentences by using the imperfect verb form of the auxiliary ‘sein’ (to be) or ‘haben’ (to have) and the past participle of the full verb. Below you can find an overview of all conjugated forms of the auxiliaries:
haben = to have (hatten –had)
|1st person||ich hatte(I had)||wir hatten(we had)|
|2nd person||du hattest / Sie hatten(you had)||ihr hattet / Sie hatten(you had)|
|3rd person||er/sie/es hatte(he/she/it had)||sie hatten(they had)|
sein = to be (war – was/were)
|1st person||ich war(I was)||wir waren(we were)|
|2nd person||du warst / Sie waren(you were)||ihr wart / Sie waren(you were)|
|3rd person||er/sie/es war(he/she/it was)||sie waren(you were)|
Ich hatte bis 20 Uhr gearbeitet. = I had worked until 8 p.m.
Ich hatte fünf Stunden gearbeitet. = I had been working for five hours.
Ich hatte bis 20 Uhr eingekauft. = I had shopped till 8 p.m.
Ich hatte fünf Stunden eingekauft. = I had been shopping for five hours.
As you can see, the German language does not distinguish between a Simple and a Progressive form.
Additionally, the Plusquamperfekt is used in temporal clauses in order to illustrate anteriority.
Nachdem sie nach Hause gekommen war, hörte sie Musik.
(After she had arrived at home, she listened to music.)
Als ich an der Bushaltestelle ankam, war der Bus schon losgefahren.
(When I arrived at the bus stop, the bus had already departed.)
Nachdem es aufgehört hatte zu regnen, gingen wir spazieren.
(After it had stopped raining, we went for a walk.)
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