Absolute Perfection! Forming the Perfect Tense

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13655

The most-used verb tenses are straightforward (past, present, future), but there are some tenses that apply to more narrow situations. Learn how to form the perfect tense in this lesson.


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


chocolate souffle

Bob made thousands of unsuccessful soufflés.

Bob made a successful soufflé.

  • How would you express these events in a single sentence?

Keep reading to find out!

The most direct way to express these events in a single sentence would be:

Bob had made thousands of soufflés before he made one successfully.

This sentence utilizes the past perfect tense (had made) to indicate that, while both of these events happened in the past, one happened before the other.

Verb Tenses

A verb's tense is its place in time.

  • When did this action or state of being occur?

The most common tenses are past, present, and future:

  Past: jumped
  Present: jump
  Future: will jump


From these simple tenses, there are conditions that add further meaning to the verb's place in time.

The perfect tense is a way of expressing the completion of actions, relative to the point in time of completion.

  • Past perfect indicates that something occurred previous to another past event.
  • Present perfect indicates that something happened at an indefinite point in the past.
  • Future perfect indicates that something will be completed by the time a future thing occurs.

Read each sentence below and decide which perfect tense is being used:

How to Form Perfect Tense

To form the perfect tense, you use a form of have plus the past participle.

Here are the formulas for each construction:

  Past Perfect: had + past particple
  Present Perfect: have or has + past particple
  Future Perfect: will have + past particple


Past Participles

  • But what are participles?

written words

Participles are words that are formed from verbs that are used as adjectives or in forming verb tenses (like perfect tense).

Though there are irregular verbs that do not follow typical rules, they typically end with:

  • -ed
  • -d
  • -t
  • -en
  • -n

Here are a few examples:

  Infinitive Simple Past Past Participle
  to be was or were been
  to come came come
  to do did done
  to eat ate eaten
  to write wrote written


Try It Out

Form the past perfect, present perfect, and future perfect of the following infinitives:

Some of the irregular verb forms can be difficult to remember from time to time. There's no real trick--it just takes memorization.

When in doubt, always double check to make sure you're using the correct past participle.

Click through to the Got It? section to check your understanding with practice exercises.

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