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Try These 7 Perfect Activities for Teaching the Past Perfect Tense

1. 1
Time Flies
Write several past times on small slips of paper and then put them in a
hat. Have each student draw a past time and then state something he or she had
already done by that time using the past perfect tense. Each student should include
already in his answers. For example, I had already applied to school in February.
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Recent Events
What things have your students done recently? Have they taken trips or seen
certain movies? As a class, brainstorm a list of activities they have done using
the simple past and time references. Then, each person should take turns telling
the class something he completed before one of the listed events. They should use
the past perfect for their own event, and a subordinate clause starting with before
for the event in the simple past. For example, I had seen the movie before you
finished the book.
3. 3
All in Perspective
Using the same events from the last activity, have your students restate their
sentences using a subordinate clause starting with after. For example, You
finished the book after I had seen the movie.
4. 4
Experiencing Culture
Many ESL students find that travelling overseas to study brings many different
cultural experiences. Ask your students to share some things they had never done
before travelling overseas for their English studies. They should use the past perfect
in the negative form. For example, I had never eaten pizza before I came to the
U.S.
5. 5
Just Done
What had your students just done at each hour of the day yesterday? Have
each person write out some things that he had just done for each hour during the
day. For example, I had just woken up at 6 a.m. I had just finished my breakfast at 7
a.m.

6. 6
Reported Speech
When using reported speech, verb tenses change. Any verbs expressed in the
simple past in the original statement will change to the past perfect in the reported
speech. Arrange your students in a circle and have one person express and action
in the simple past. For example, I came to class today. The next person in the circle
must then convert that sentence to reported speech. She said that she had come to
class today. That second person then makes a past statement, and the next person
in the circle changes it to reported speech. Continue until the first person converts
the last students past statement to reported speech.
7. 7
Conditional Sentences
For conditional sentences expressing unreal past situations, the past perfect
is used in the if-clause. The main clause then uses would as the auxiliary verb.
Have each student write three true sentences about herself using the simple past.
Then, have her write aconditional sentence changing each true sentence into an
unreal if-clause. For example, if she writes I studied for the test, she might write the
following conditional: If I had not studied for the test, I would have failed.