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Can We Use “Yesterday” With Past Perfect?

With so many past tense forms in English, knowing which words correspond with each can feel confusing. When using the past perfect tense, you know that something happened in the past, but can you add adverbs of time to your sentence, too?

You can use “yesterday” with the past perfect tense. The past perfect tense indicates an action that both started and finished in the past. By adding in adverbs of time like “yesterday” and “last week,” the sentence becomes more specific about when the action took place, but it is still in the past perfect tense form.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, but now it looks like you’re confused by adverbs of time and the past perfect tense together. Let us help you work out how you can add “yesterday” to the past perfect tense.

Which Past Tense Form Should You Use With “Yesterday”?

As soon as “yesterday” appears in a sentence, we assume the events took place in the past. But you can use several variations of past tense with “yesterday.”

Past Simple

The most common past tense type is past simple, which indicates that an event occurred in the past. It is not specific about when (or if) the event stopped. By using “yesterday,” we show that the event took place the day before.

Past simple tense uses the past tense form of a verb. Generally, the past tense places -ed after the regular verb form. Irregular verbs, such as “eat,” “feel,” and “go,” have a specific format for past tense, in this case, “ate,” “felt,” and “went.”  

Example sentences:

  • I went home yesterday.
  • Elena ate all my food yesterday.
  • Yesterday, we skated at the ice rink.

As shown in the sentences, “yesterday” can appear at the end of the clause or before it. In both of these cases, it is an adverb of time. Adverbs of time indicate when an event took place.

Past Continuous

Past continuous tense uses “was” or “were,” depending on the subject, along with the present participle form of the verb. You can create the present participle form by adding -ing to the end of the verb.

You can use “yesterday” with this tense form to indicate more specifically when an event happened in the past. It is distinguishable from past simple as the simple past tense shows that an event occurred in the past, while past continuous describes the actions that took place in the past.

Example sentences:

  • I was shopping yesterday, so I’m exhausted now.
  • The painters were working yesterday.
  • Damon was baking yesterday, so there is a lot of cake today.

These tense forms can also be combined when needed. 

Past Perfect

You can use the past perfect tense to show that an event both happened and ended in the past. You can create this by having the subject follow “had” and the past participle. 

Past participles are not the same as past tense, although there may be an overlap. Past participles can also use irregular verbs. Read “Past Tense of Run: Understanding Regular and Irregular Verb Tenses” to bolster your knowledge about irregular verbs.

You can easily use “yesterday” with the past perfect tense because it indicates when the action was completed.

Example sentences:

  • Stefan had not completed his homework yesterday.
  • They had eaten all my chocolate yesterday, and I’m completely out.

But “yesterday” is not the only adverb of time that works with all types of past tense. Other adverbs can be just as effective, depending on the kind of information you wish to share.

Which Time Phrases Can I Use With Past Perfect?

Remember that the past perfect tense shows that an event happened in the past. It uses “had” and the past participle form of the verb (source). Many times, you’ll want to use phrases with the past perfect tense, including “yesterday.”

The past perfect tense is something that can seem complicated, but it is straightforward once you understand what you’re trying to say. To check your knowledge about the past perfect tense, read “Can We Use Past Perfect Alone?

Adverbs and adverbial phrases can appear at any point in a clause, including the middle, before, and after. Changing the placement of the adverb does not make a difference to the meaning, but it can change the focus of the sentences (source).

Example sentences:

  • Yesterday, I had left the party to pack for my holiday.
  • I had left the party yesterday so I could pack for my holiday.

Using the adverb “yesterday” before or after the clause is grammatically accurate with the past perfect tense. Other adverbs of time like “now” can appear before, in the middle, and after the clause. 

But “yesterday” is not the only adverb of time that you can use. Let’s examine a few others.

Adverbs

Adverbs of time, also called temporal adverbs, provide more information about when an event took place in the past tense. They also describe how long an event took place or how often it happened.

“Adverbs of time” is a broad phrase that can cover several categories. First, there are adverbs of time that specify a day or time. For example, “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” “year,” “month,” and “night.”

You will place most adverbs of time at the end of the sentence to provide information about the event first, but when they appear at the start of the sentence, they emphasize the time period first.

Example sentences:

  • Tomorrow, I’m going to come over.
  • I’m going to come over tomorrow.

In the first sentence, the clause could respond to a question about when exactly the person is coming over, while the second sentence emphasizes the action rather than the time.

These adverbs can also appear in the past perfect tense but usually require an adverbial form to place the time in the past. Therefore, you cannot use “tomorrow” with the past perfect tense.

Example sentences:

  • I had called him last night.
  • Matt hadn’t had a drink since last year.

There are also adverbs of time that indicate how frequently something takes place. These adverbs divide into two subcategories of definite frequency and indefinite frequency.

Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency

Adverbs of indefinite frequency show how often something happens but without being overly specific about it. Examples of indefinite frequency adverbs are “usually,” “often,” “never,” “seldom,” “always,” and “repeatedly.”

These types of adverbs appear in the middle of the sentence between the subject and verb, informing the reader about how often an action finishes. It can occur at the end of the sentence as well, which changes the strength of the action.

Example sentences:

  • I usually meet him for coffee in the morning.
  • I have never spoken to him before today.
  • We seldom travel, so going overseas is a massive treat for us.

As the examples demonstrate, adverbs of indefinite frequency give us information about an event without being specific about when or how many times it has happened. 

You can use adverbs of indefinite frequency with the past perfect tense. The adverb comes after “had” and before the past participle.

Example sentences:

  • I had usually walked him to the bus.
  • She had always told me never to trust a cat.
  • Tyler had seldom snapped at her, which made it so much worse.

Adverbs of Definite Frequency

Adverbs of definite frequency are the opposite. They are precise about how often an event happens. The best way to recognize them is to note that they use specific time markers to indicate when something happens.

“Hourly,” “daily,” “monthly,” “yearly,” and “once a day” are all examples of adverbs of definite frequency. You can replace these with any other time marker like “week,” “month,” or “year.”

Example sentences:

  • Matt and Vicki go to the park every week.
  • I have to check the data hourly to follow any changes.
  • We’re going on our yearly vacation so that I won’t be available for any new projects.

As long as the sentence includes a time marker, it indicates a specific frequency of an event happening. You can use adverbs of definite frequency with the past perfect tense. “Had” and the past participle generally follow the subject like normal, and the adverb then comes after the subject.

Adverbs of Possibility

Two adverbs indicate that there’s a chance of something happening: the words “yet” and “still.” 

“Yet” indicates that a situation has not happened yet but will occur in the future.

Example sentences:

  • I haven’t started my homework yet.
  • Tyler hasn’t arrived in the country yet.
  • Elena and Damon haven’t watched the series yet, so don’t ruin it for them.

In contrast, “still” indicates that something is continuing to happen. The event or scenario started in the past and is still happening or true in the present.

Example sentences:

  • Bonnie was still studying economics.
  • I refuse to give up the game, so I’m still playing it, even though I keep losing.
  • That restaurant is still one of the best in the city.

We can use “yesterday” and adverbs of possibility in a sentence together, but we’ll require two separate clauses to be accurate. For example, you can say, “I started my project yesterday, but I still haven’t completed it.”

Adverbials

There are also adverbs of time that indicate how long an event is happening. 

When an adverb is part of a longer phrase, we call it an adverbial phrase. You can also use specific adverbs that point to a particular time period but contain different words for extra information.

Example sentences:

  • Jeremy spent the entire night completing his project.
  • I stayed at the hotel for a week.
  • My twin brother and I have been close since our birth.

Many adverbial phrases often begin with “for” or “since.” You’ll often use “for” to show when something has been happening throughout that time period and “since” to indicate that the event started at that specific time and continues into the present.

An adverbial is an umbrella term that can refer to several parts of a sentence, which makes it a little difficult to pin down as so many phrases can be adverbials.

Example sentences:

  • They have been living in Arkansas. → prepositional phrase
  • It rained cats and dogs last night. → noun phrase
  • I’ll be dressed really soon. → adverb with intensifier
Image by Ben Mullins via Unsplash

Can We Use “While” With Past Perfect? 

“While” is both a noun and subordinating conjunction. You can use it with the past perfect tense as it is not a determiner of the tense.

Before we break down how to use “while” with the past perfect tense, let us examine subordinating conjunctions. Subordinating conjunctions connect an independent and dependent clause (source).

“While” shows the relationship between two clauses, indicating that two events are happening simultaneously or showing the contrast between two objects or people.

Example sentences:

  • You shouldn’t be on the phone while driving.
  • Her hopes rose while she waited for the results to come out.
  • Vicki’s kids continued coloring while they waited for their food.

When using “while” with the past perfect tense, the independent clause should always be in the past perfect tense, but the dependent clause can be in the simple past tense or the past perfect tense. 

This article was written for strategiesforparents.com. 

Example sentences:

  • While I had believed him, he hadn’t been candid with me.
  • She had started cooking the noodles while the beef cooked.
  • Matt had started working while still in high school.

Since “while” does not have a tense built into the word, it can work with a range of tense types, but most often, you will use it with past tense.

Final Thoughts

When we learned about tenses in school, they always felt like overly complicated formulas with rules and patterns and irregular verbs that we had to memorize. 

However, when you look at the past perfect tense, you learn that the tense type is very flexible and shares information in various ways. You can easily use “yesterday” and other time markers with the past perfect tense to show when an event happened.