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Introduction to the Past Perfect Subjunctive

Just like the indicative, the subjunctive also has a past perfect--or pluperfect--form. Remember: the past perfect, whether in indicative or in subjunctive, expresses an action that occurred in the past before another action took place. A key word in English that should come to mind when using the past perfect is “had”, which is then followed by the past participle of a verb. The past perfect subjunctive is used instead of the indicative past perfect if the subjunctive is required:

Pensavo che tu avessi mangiato tutta la torta!
I thought that you had eaten the entire cake!

As we can see in the example above, just like our previous subjunctive tenses, we need a two-clause sentence to use the past perfect subjunctive. To use the past perfect subjunctive, the action in the dependent clause must have occurred before the action in the independent clause. Additionally, the independent clause must contain a subjunctive-trigger verb in the imperfect or past perfect tense which generates the past perfect subjunctive verb in the dependent clause.

To create past perfect subjunctive verbs, you must use avere or essere as auxiliary verbs, as with our indicative past tenses, but they must be in their imperfect forms:

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