Lesson 14 – Pluperfect tense

Alongside the perfect and imperfect tenses, a further past tense exists in Latin. This is called the pluperfect tense. The pluperfect tense (or past perfect in English) is used to describe finished actions that have been completed at a definite point in time in the past.

It is easiest to understand it as a past ‘past’ action.

For example:

‘I had given the messuage to Lucy, when I realised my mistake.’

The messuage had been given to Lucy before the speaker realised his mistake.

In Latin this tense looks like this:

Pluperfect tense
Ego Lucie messuagium dederam – I had given a messuage to Lucy

The endings for the pluperfect are similar to those of the present tense:

Latin English
-o I (first person singular)
-s you (second person singular)
-t he/she/it (third person singular)
-mus we (first person plural)
-tis you (second person plural)
-nt they (third person plural)

The difference is that they are preceded by ‘era-’ and, in the first person singular, the characteristic ‘-o’ of the present changes to ‘-m’ in the pluperfect.

Pluperfect tense endings
Latin English
-eram I
-eras you (singular)
-erat he/she/it
-eramus we
-eratis you (plural)
-erant they

To form the pluperfect tense, remove the ‘-i’ from the third principal part of the verb and add the relevant ending.

Pluperfect of confirmo, confirmare, confirmavi, confirmatum (1) to confirm

Latin English
confirmaveram I had confirmed
confirmaveras you had confirmed
confirmaverat he/she/it had confirmed
confirmaveramus we had confirmed
confirmaveratis you had confirmed
confirmaverant they had confirmed

Irregular verbs

Handy hint

Two irregular verbs you will frequently come across are ‘esse’, ‘to be’, and ‘ire’, ‘to go’. It is well worth learning their pluperfect forms.

The pluperfect tense of sum, esse, fui – ‘to be’ is formed as follows:

Latin English
fueram I had been
fueras you had been
fuerat he/she/it had been
fueramus we had been
fueratis you had been
fuerant they had been

The pluperfect tense of eo, ire, ivi, itum (4) ‘to go’ is formed as follows:

Latin English
iveram I had gone
iveras you had gone
iverat he/she/it had gone
iveramus we had gone
iveratis you had gone
iverant they had gone

Checklist

Are you confident with

  • the meaning of a pluperfect tense?
  • the form of a pluperfect tense?
  • the meaning of the irregular verbs ‘esse’ and ‘ire’ in the pluperfect tense?
  • the form of the irregular verbs ‘esse’ and ‘ire’ in the pluperfect tense?

What next?