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The Past Perfect in German (Plusquamperfekt)

The construction of the past perfect in the German language explained in English
Just like in English, the past perfect is used to indicate that an action was already completed in the past.

The use of the past perfect

Just like in English, the past perfect is used to indicate that an action was already completed in the past. Usually it is used together with a phrase in Präteritum or in Perfekt.

Ich hatte den ganzen Tag gearbeitet. Danach habe ich eingekauft
I had worked all day. Afterwards, I went shopping


If the conjugation used for the Perfekt is known, the past perfect is quite simple. It is constructed with the auxiliary verb sein or haben in Präteritum plus the Partizip II (see decision: "sein" or "haben" in the Perfekt article)

Conjugation with the verb "sein"

ichwar gekommenI had come
duwarst gekommenyou had come
er/sie/eswar gekommenhe/she/it had come
wirwaren gekommenwe had come
ihrwart gekommenyou had come
siewaren gekommenthey had come

Conjugation with the verb "haben"

ichhatte gearbeitetI had worked
duhattest gearbeitetyou had worked
er/sie/eshatte gearbeitethe/she/it had worked
wirhatten gearbeitetwe had worked
ihrhattet gearbeitetyou had worked
siehatten gearbeitetthey had worked


Nachdem sie aufgestanden war, hat sie gefrühstückt
She had breakfast after she had gotten up

Ich hatte gekocht
I had cooked

Er war gegangen
He had gone

The passive of the "Plusquamperfekt"

Main Article: German passive

Its construction is:

[verb "sein" in Präteritum] + [Partizip II] + [worden]

Example 1:

in the active voice:
Ich hatte ein Buch gelesen
I had read a book

in the passive:
Ein Buch war gelesen worden
A book had been read

Example 2:

in the active voice:
Jemand hatte das Grab von Tutanchamun entdeckt
Someone had discovered the Tutankhamun's tomb

in the passive:
Das Grab von Tutanchamun war 1922 entdeckt worden
The tomb of Tutankhamun had been discovered in 1922

The Konjunktiv of the "Plusquamperfekt"

Main Article: Konjunktiv II

Starting with the past perfect of the indicative, the construction of the past perfect subjunctive is very simple. You just have to substitute the auxiliary verb forms for their Konjuntiv II forms

Indicative forms:

Ich hatte gegessen / Ich war geflogen
I had eaten / I had flown

"Konjunktiv II" forms:

Ich hätte gegessen / ich wäre geflogen
I would have eaten / I would have flown


Audiovisual Complement

Because not everything is theoretical, we present you a hit song “99 Luftballons” from a famous German pop singer: