AskDefine | Define pluperfect

Dictionary Definition

pluperfect adj : more than perfect; "he spoke with pluperfect precision" n : a perfective tense used to express action completed in the past; "`I had finished' is an example of the past perfect" [syn: past perfect, past perfect tense, pluferfect tense]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. more than perfect
  2. pertaining to action completed before or at the same time as another

Usage notes


  1. The pluperfect tense
  2. A verb in this tense


  • Greek: υπερσυντέλικος

Extensive Definition

The pluperfect tense (from Latin plus quam perfectum more than perfect), also called past perfect in English, is a perfective tense that exists in most Indo-European languages, used to refer to an event that has completed before another past action.
In the sentence "The blind man, who knew that he had risen, motioned him to sit down again" (from Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty), "he had risen" is an example of the pluperfect tense. It refers to an event (someone rises from his seat), which takes place before another event (the blind man notices the fact that the other has risen). Since that second event (the blind man's taking notice) is itself a past event and the past tense is used to refer to it ("the blind man knew"), the pluperfect is needed to make it clear that the first event (someone rises) has taken place even earlier in the past.

Types of pluperfect

There are generally two types of pluperfect, corresponding to the two types of perfect:
  • Pluperfect of state, where the consequence of some event is associated with that event during a narration in the past tense: "He saw that the door had opened, and children were running through it." is nearly the same as "...He saw that the door was open, and children..." A pluperfect of state is, in association to the actual fact of the action, midway between the past tense (the door opened yesterday) and the predicate adjective that is the past participle (the door was open since yesterday).
  • Pluperfect of action, where a series of pluperfect sentences carry a narration. This pluperfect is allied more closely to the usual preterite tense in English. It serves only to place a narration in the "more distant past," without determining its particular time or duration, as follows: "He had risen early that morning and had drunk coffee earlier than usual."

Examples from various languages

In the English language, the pluperfect tense is often called the past perfect. It is formed by combining the past tense of the auxiliary verb have with the past participle (e.g. "he had risen" in the above quote from Dickens). Other languages like Latin have special verb forms for the pluperfect tense and do not need to use auxiliary verbs. Thus the Latin equivalent of 'he had seen' is viderat. However, most modern European languages combine auxiliary verbs and past participles:
In German, the pluperfect (Plusquamperfekt or Vorvergangenheit, lit. pre-past) is used in much the same manner, normally in a nachdem sentence. The Plusquamperfekt is formed with the Partizip Perfekt (Partizip II) of the full lexical verb, plus the auxiliary verb haben or sein in its preterite form, depending on the full lexical verb in question. For example: Nachdem ich aufgestanden war, ging ich ins Badezimmer 'After I had got up, I went into the bathroom'.
In Dutch, the pluperfect (Voltooid verleden tijd) is formed similarly as in German: the voltooid deelwoord is combined with an auxiliary declination of hebben or zijn, depending on the full lexical verb: Voordat ik er erg in had, was het al twaalf uur geworden. - Before I noticed, it had become noon already. Also, pluperfect is sometimes used instead of present perfect: Dat had ik al gezien (voordat jij het zag) - lit.: I had seen that (before you did). The parenthesized part can be omitted.
In French, the pluperfect (plus-qu- parfait) is formed from the imperfect tense of the appropriate auxiliary verb (être or avoir) plus the past participle. For example, Jean avait déjà éteint l'incendie quand les pompiers sont arrivés 'John had already put the fire out when the fire brigade arrived'.
In Italian, the pluperfect (trapassato prossimo) is formed correspondingly to French by using the imperfect tense of the appropriate auxiliary verb (essere or avere) plus the past participle. For example, Ero affamato perché non avevo mangiato 'I was hungry because I had not eaten'.
In Spanish, the pluperfect (pluscuamperfecto, or antecopretérito) is (similarly) formed from the imperfect tense of the auxiliary verb haber plus the past participle. For example, Había comido cuando mi madre vino 'I had eaten when my mother came'.
In Portuguese, there is a synthetic pluperfect (mais-que-perfeito). For example, Quando cheguei soube que meu amigo morrera 'When I came I learned that my friend had died'. Its use has become mostly literary, however, and in spoken Portuguese the pluperfect is usually formed using the auxiliary verb ter plus the past participle. For example, Quando cheguei soube que meu amigo tinha morrido. A more formal way of expressing the pluperfect uses the verb "haver". For example: Quando cheguei soube que meu amigo havia morrido..
In Judeo-Spanish, the Latin pluperfect forms with little alteration have been preserved (e.g. final /m/ and /t/ are dropped) to express this tense (pluskuamperfekto), which is identical in form to the imperfect subjunctive. It has a similar form to the Portuguese, thus the Portuguese example above in Jidyo is, Kuando yegí suve ke mi haver morera 'When I came I knew that my friend had died'. It remains the main spoken form, though in some varieties, similarly to Spanish or Portuguese, the pluperfect is formed using the auxiliary verbs tener or aver plus the past participle. For example, Kuando yegí suve ke mi haver tuve morido or Kuando yegí suve ke mi haver avía morido.
In Romanian, the pluperfect (mai mult ca perfectul) is expressed without any auxiliary words, using a particular form of the verb. For example, in Când l-am întrebat, el văzuse deja filmul 'When I asked him, he had already seen the movie'. The verb văzuse is in the pluperfect form of a vedea 'to see'. Technically, this form is obtained from the singular third person form of the simple perfect tense by adding specific terminations for each person and number.
In Galician, the pluperfect ( Pretérito pluscuamperfecto) is a simple tense formed by inflecting the verb: fuxiras ' had fled'.
In Ukrainian, there is a pluperfect tense (davnomynulyj čas) that is formed by preceding the verb with buv or bula (literally, 'was'). It was and is used in daily speech, especially in rural areas. Being mostly unused in literature during Soviet times, it is now regaining popularity. Here is an example of usage: Ja vže buv pіšov, až raptom zhadav... 'I had already started going when I remembered...'.
In Polish, it is constructed with an auxiliary verb być 'to be' in a past tense, third person only. It is now old fashioned, used only in the formal register. Example: Powinieneś był to zrobić 'You should've done it'.
In Serbo-Croatian, the pluperfect tense ("pluskvamperfekt") is constructed with the past tense ("perfekt") of the verb to be¨("biti") plus the adjective form of the main verb. For example : "Ja sam bio učio" , which means "I had been studying".
In Finnish, the pluperfect (pluskvamperfekti) is constructed with an auxiliary verb olla 'to be', which is in the past tense. The primary verbs get the past participle endings -nyt/-nut in singular, -neet in plural forms (the 'n' assimilates with certain consonants) and -ttu/-tty/-tu/-ty in passive forms. Still, there are some irregularities, for example me olimme olleet 'we had been', the primary verb is irregular.
In Latin, the pluperfect (plus quam perfectum) is formed without an auxiliary verb in the active voice and with an auxiliary verb plus the perfect passive participle in the passive voice. For example, in the indicative mood, pecuniam mercatori dederat (He had given money to the merchant), and Pecunia mercatori datus erat (Money had been given to the merchant). The subjunctive mood is formed similarly (Dedisset and Datus sit, respectively). Often, an ablative absolute phrase, using a noun and perfect participle in the ablative case, may be used where a pluperfect clause would be used in English. (Pecunia mercatori data, cessit emptor. When money had been given to the merchant, the buyer left.)

External links

pluperfect in Bosnian: Pluskvamperfekt
pluperfect in Czech: Plusquamperfektum
pluperfect in German: Plusquamperfekt
pluperfect in Spanish: Pretérito pluscuamperfecto
pluperfect in French: Indicatif plus-que-parfait
pluperfect in Croatian: Pluskvamperfekt
pluperfect in Italian: Trapassato prossimo
pluperfect in Latin: Plusquamperfectum
pluperfect in Dutch: Voltooid verleden tijd
pluperfect in Norwegian: Preteritum perfektum
pluperfect in Norwegian Nynorsk: Pluskvamperfektum
pluperfect in Polish: Czas zaprzeszły
pluperfect in Russian: Плюсквамперфект
pluperfect in Serbian: Плусквамперфекат
pluperfect in Serbo-Croatian: Pluskvamperfekt
pluperfect in Finnish: Pluskvamperfekti
pluperfect in Swedish: Pluskvamperfekt
pluperfect in Ukrainian: Давноминулий час
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1