15 more fun ways to practise the Past Perfect

1. The Time is Right! This is based on the television quiz show “The Price is Right” in which contestants see how close they can get to the real price of a product without going under. A student gives an event or a number of times they had done something before a certain (unstated) time, and […]

1. The Time is Right!
This is based on the television quiz show “The Price is Right” in which contestants see how close they can get to the real price of a product without going under. A student gives an event or a number of times they had done something before a certain (unstated) time, and the other students see how close they can get to it going back in time but without going earlier than the event. For example, one student says “Visit Italy twice” and students outbid each other with sentences like “You had visited Italy twice by the beginning of this year”, “You had visited Italy twice before you finished university” and “You had visited Italy twice before you started university”. Any sentences that give a time before the real time are discounted, and the closest sentence then wins.

2. This one or last one?
Students say something that happened in this course or before it, and the other students guess which one it is, e.g. “Study Past Perfect” “You had already studied Past Perfect before you entered this class”. Other possibilities include “Have a British teacher”, “Done an IELTS practice test” and “Studied an intensive course”. The same game can be played with work experience in their present job or before.

3. This one or last one? roleplay
This is similar to “This One or Last One?” above. One student is someone quitting their job and the other student is their boss or HR manager. According to the terms of their contract, if they leave after working less than 3 years they have to pay their company back for any experience they gained there. The manager tries to discover things that they have done in their present job and had never done before that they must therefore pay for, e.g. “In your present job you have used SAP software, haven’t you?” “Yes, I have. I’ll pay you 100 dollars for that experience.”/ “No, I haven’t”/ “Yes, but I’d already done that before I joined this company”. They can’t lie.

4. You had messed it up
One student steps out of the room, and all the other students change some things in the room. The student comes back into the room, and the other students change some more things. The person who stepped out of the room is then tested on which changes happened when, e.g. “When I came back into the room, you had already…” or “You …. after I came back into the room” These can either be in response to questions or just as many things as they can remember.

5. Already seen
A student looks at one picture for two minutes, then at four pictures including that one for one minute more. Their partner then tests them on the content of all four pictures and guesses which of the pictures their partner had seen for longer, e.g. “You had already seen picture B”.

6. I gawped
Students are given pictures of a crash scene before, during and after the crash, and then test each other on their memory of the pictures and which things were in which picture with questions such as “Had the old lady already finished crossing the road when the crash happened?”

7. Who was more mature?
Students try to outdo each other with their experiences up to a certain age with questions like “When you turned 21, had you already lived away from home?” “No, I hadn’t.” “I had, so one point for me.”

8. Trace the route
Students draw an around the world trip on a map and their partner asks yes/ no questions to draw their partner’s route, e.g. “Did you go to Bangkok after Bali?” “No, we had already been to Bangkok when we went to Bali.”/ “No, we didn’t go to Bangkok at all”/ “Yes, but we had already been to one more place before we arrived in Bangkok”. The same thing can work for routes around a town (names of shops and prepositions of position), places in a school, a galaxy (scientific vocabulary), a factory etc.

9. Guess where
This similar to “Guess Who” above. Students draw a route and then mark one place on it where something bad happened, e.g. a crime in the airport (travel vocabulary). Students then ask yes/ no questions until they find the exact point, e.g. “Had you already checked in?” This can be done with the students not knowing the route the person took or (easier) knowing the route and just trying to find one point on it.

10. I’d done it better
One student does something twice, doing it in a slightly different order the second time. Their partner then corrects them, e.g. “Last time, you had already put the milk in before you poured the tea”. This is good for Technical English and Medical English classes.

11. Our Stories
Students work together to put a worksheet of pictures or words in some order to make a story, without writing anything down to remind them what the story was. They split up to tell their story separately to another pair, and are then told the contradictions between how they both told the story, i.e. what mistakes one of them made when telling it.

12. I had been punished enough
Students are split into groups and decide on punishments for people who have committed particular crimes. In each group, half the people had previous convictions (written in the Past Perfect) and half the people didn’t. Compare the punishments from the different groups and discuss whether they think they have given the right amount of importance to having a criminal record or not.

13. Deliberately repetitive story
Students write a story, and add one of the events a second time, e.g. brushing their teeth once after dinner and another time before they go to bed. Their partner has to listen carefully to the story and identify the deliberate mistake with sentences like “But you said you had already shot him dead before the police arrived”. This can also be done with the students being given the story (rather than writing it) and adding the repeated action themselves.

14. Past Perfect revision revision
Students test each other on the order they studied things in the book, e.g. “Had we already read about the man with 15 jobs when we studied the Present Perfect tense?” This obviously connects well with revision for a progress test.

15. My favourite moment
Students pick one point in a story written in past tenses, e.g. what they think the most interesting moment is or one containing the most important new vocabulary, and students ask questions about what happened before and after that moment to guess which moment it is.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net December 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.


  • julie says:

    Thank you so much for all these activities. I will use them in class today

  • najib says:

    Very good, very educational !!!



  • murad says:

    thanks alot. Really useful ways to deal with past perfect tense. I really had fun.

  • Rusudan says:

    Hallo! I want to share my idea I’ll write only examples.

    Eg. I posted the letter after I had written it.
    Simple Past – AFTER – Past Perfect

    Eg. I had written the letter before I posted it.
    Past Perfect – BEFORE – Simple Past

    Can someone answer am I right?
    Sincerely Yours

  • Alexandra says:

    I will try this, tnx))

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