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French Pluperfect (Plus-Que-Parfait) Tense

French Pluperfect (Plus-Que-Parfait) Tense

What is the plus-que-parfait in French?

In French, the “plus-que-parfait” or pluperfect tense is used to indicate actions that occurred prior to other past actions. It would equate to “had happened” in English. For example, “Je n’ai pas mangé à 18h00 parcé que j’avais dejà mange à 16h00” (I didn’t eat at 6pm because I’d already eaten at 4pm).

French plus-que-parfait beginners guide.

For verbs conjugated avoir (to have) in the passé composé, it’s formed by combining avoir in the imparfait with the past participle. For verbs formed with être in the passé composé, use the imparfait of être.

Plus-que-parfait conjugation endings

Parler (to speak) - had spoken
j'avais parlé
tu avais parlé
il avait parlé
nous avions parlé
vous aviez parlé
ils avaient parlé
Arriver (to arrive) - had arrived
j'étais arrivé(e)
tu étais arrivé(e)
il/elle était arrivé(e)
nous étions arrivé(e)s
vous étiez arrivé(e)(s)
ils étaient arrivé(e)s
Se lever (to get up) - had gotten up
je m'étais levé(e)
tu t'étais levé(e)
il/elle s'était levé(e)
nous nous étions levé(e)s
vous vous étiez levé(e)(s)
ils s'étaient levé(e)s
French plus-que-parfait example

Sample sentences using the French pluperfect

The best way to get a sense of how to use the French plus-que-parfait is by going through some example sentences.

  • Cet hiver, j’ai visité la France. L’année dernière, j’avais visité l’Italie. This winter I visited France. Last winter I’d visited Italy.
  • Quand je suis arrivé au cinéma, le film avait déjà commencé. When I got the movies the movie had already started.
  • Aujourd’hui je me suis promené en ville. Hier, je m’étais promené dans la campagne. Today I took a walk downtown. Yesterday I’d taken a walk in the countryside.
  • Quand papa est entré dans la cuisine, maman avait deja préparé le repas. When dad entered the kitchen, mom had already made the meal.
  • Quand je suis arrivé à la gare, le train était parti. When I got the the train station, the train had already left.
  • J’ai vu ton ami ce matin. Je l’avais vu hier soir aussi. I saw your friend this morning. I’d seen him yesterday too.
  • Je n’ai pas téléphoné à ma mere aujourd’hui parce que je lui avais téléphoné hier. I didn’t call my mom today because I’d called her yesterday.
  • Quand mon ami m’a appelé, je m’étais déjà réveillé. When my friend called me, I’d already woken up.
  • Je n’ai rien mangé ce soir parce que j’avais beaucoup mangé à midi. I didn’t eat anything tonight because I ate a lot at noon.
  • Je n’ai pas acheté la voiture parce que j’avais déjà acheté une voiture l’année dernière. I didn’t buy a new car because I’d already bought a car last year.
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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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