I have heard that pluperfect is simply past tense relative to a subsequent past moment rather than to the moment of the utterance. “I had blown out the candle” indicates that this event occurred prior to some past event.

I have heard that future perfect can also be analyzed as relative to some prior future event. “I will have done my homework” indicates that the completion of my homework occurred in the future but before some other future event.

Is present perfect always relative to the moment of the utterance? I’m not sure, because some present events are ongoing. “He has climbed Mt. Everest” indicates an event that was completed before the moment of the utterance.

I know that different linguistic theories analyze linguistic data differently, and that some analyses are more useful in some contexts than in others.

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    The English perfect designates a state at reference time (the time with which the discourse is centrally concerned--non-past with the 'present perfect' and past with the past perfect) which arises out of an eventuality prior to reference time. BE and HAVE perfects in other languages have different meanings. Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 2:44
  • Are you asking about English specifically, or about something more general? (As StoneyB's comment hints, the answer may be different depending on the language, since there are different constructions are called "pluperfect".) Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 3:58
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    The category of perfect in English can be anything, but not an aspect, because in English there are two aspects, continuous (aka progressive) and non-continuous (aka non-progressive) which are not opposed to perfect and can combine with it forming perfect continuous tenses, like "I have been waiting". Perfect + continuous gives 6 combinations, so we can either consider there are 2 aspects (cont. and non-cont.) and perfect is not an aspect or we can think there are 6 aspects (all the combinations of perf. + cont.), but anyhow, we can no way think perfect is an aspect on its own.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 6:07

1 Answer 1


In Latin, the pluperfect would appear to be a combination of an aspect (perfect) and a tense (past). It is even sometimes called the past perfect. This is based off the fact that the pluperfect endings in latin are 3rd principle part (used for forming perfect, future-perfect, and pluperfect), plus the past forms of to be. In other languages, what they call a pluperfect might be analyzed differently.

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