Past perfect tense needs to be handled with care. It is most useful in the narrative genre and is seldom needed in Task 2 writing. However, Task 1 essays occasionally present an opportunity to use past perfect.
Let’s try an exercise! Follow my instructions carefully and attempt the tasks before reading my sample texts.
- Look at the following graph and attempt to describe it in two short paragraphs. The first paragraph will focus on general trends and will begin:
The second paragraph will describe details and will begin:
When you’re happy with your writing, you can read my sample text.
In general, Facebook had by far the highest number of active users per month, and this number increased by more than 50% during the period. Despite having far fewer users per month, Twitter experienced a similar increase in numbers, but was overtaken half way through the period by Instagram.
In detail, Facebook already had a billion active users in 2012, but by 2015 this figure had increased to more than 1.5 billion. Twitter was in second place until 2014 when the monthly number of active Instagram users began to exceed that of Twitter users, and by 2015 Instagram had taken a 0.1 billion user lead over Twitter, forcing Twitter into third position. Similarly, by 2015 Snapchat had attracted only half as many active users per month as Instagram.
Notice the structural use of past perfect in the detail section. I admit that I went a bit mad with it, but I strongly recommend this structure:
By + past time expression + subject + V3
- Take another look at your own text. Did you use my past perfect structure? If not, can you edit your text so as to include it in at least one sentence? Please share your writing in the comments section!