Using El Pluscuamperfecto to indicate that a past action happens before another past action (pluperfect)

In Spanish we can talk about a past action that happened before another past action using El Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto. This can be referred to as "the past of the past".

Have a look and listen to these examples:

Yo había llegado a casa cuando tú me llamaste.
I had arrived home when you called me.

Antes de comer tú te habías lavado las manos.
Before eating you had washed your hands.

Habíamos oído unos disparos antes de ver al ladrón correr.
We had heard some gunshots before seeing the thief run away.

When both actions are expressed in the same sentence, there is a connective word that links the actions (cuando, antes de...).

But sometimes the two actions are expressed in two different sentences, and it is understood by the context which action took place first. For example:

Julian tuvo una entrevista de trabajo muy exitosa. Se había preparado bien porque era una gran oportunidad para él.

Despite not being connected by any word, it is understood which action took place first and which after. In this case Julian prepared for it first, and then he had the interview.

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Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Habíamos oído unos disparos antes de ver al ladrón correr.
We had heard some gunshots before seeing the thief run away.


Antes de comer tú te habías lavado las manos.
Before eating you had washed your hands.


Yo había llegado a casa cuando tú me llamaste.
I had arrived home when you called me.


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