Sometimes, the past tense is more confusing than some of us may initially think. Of course, there are plenty of times when it’s easy to know the past tense of a sentence. But, when talking about “had ran” or “had run”, it can get a little bit confusing.
Is It Had Ran Or Had Run?
“Had run” is the correct version. This is called “pluperfect”- when there is a verb in the past tense (had) followed by a verb in the present tense (run). “Had ran” uses two past tense words next to each other, which is grammatically incorrect.
Had Run Is In The “Pluperfect”. But What The Heck Is That?
The term “pluperfect” might not be one that you’re all familiar with. Until I studied English at university, I wasn’t either.
But, it’s much simpler than it may sound. The term “pluperfect” is a form of past perfect that uses a mixture of present tense and past tense language.
The reason why we say “had run” instead of “had ran” is because the word “had” already establishes that the action we’re talking about happened in the past. Clarifying this by saying “ran” instead of “run” will not be needed.
Usually, in English, it’s rare for two past tense verbs to be next to each other.
The Four Main Types Of Past Tense
The term “past tense” can be a bit too narrow sometimes. Here we have the four types of past tense that you are most likely to come across.
Something that’s already happened and finished.
“I ran to school”
Although it’s already happened, it’s said similarly to if it were still happening
“I was running to school”
Something that finished before a specified time
“I had run to school that morning”
- Perfect Continuous
Something that happens until another event stops it
“I had been running to school until I fell over”
Why “Had Run” Is Usually In The Past Perfect
As we said a little bit earlier on “had run” is an example of the past perfect. But let’s look at why using the example sentence “I had run to school that morning”.
The term “that morning” suggests that the running has finished before the specified time of “that morning”. By the time the morning was over, the running was also over.
If we were to say “I had run to school”, without “that morning”, it would still be in the past perfect because even though we don’t say it, it’s implied that there is a specified time.
If Obama Had Not Run – Playing Around With The Past Tense
One sentence that people often hear which makes them raise the “had ran”or “had run” debate is “If Obama had not run”. What I want to do is play around with this phrase and see what it would sound like if we changed what kind of past tense it’s in
I don’t think that’s possible.
If Obama wasn’t running.
If Obama had not run
- Present Continuous
If Obama had not been running.
Next time you hear someone talk about a world where Obama hadn’t run, you will now be able to hear what tense they’re talking in.
12 Examples Of “Had Run”
- “I had run three miles before work this morning”
- “If Obama had not run in 2008, who knows what America would be like today?”
- “She had run for office three times before. But her fourth attempt was when she was first elected”
- “They had run to the shop yesterday. But now, it was time for them to take out the boss”
- “He had run around the world in 100 days. But he was still not ready to rest”
- “I had run around the pond at the weekend. But I wasn’t going to act like I had any chance of winning the marathon”
- “They had run away from their duty last year. But now, the people wanted politicians who actually cared”
- “We had run to school on Wednesday. But on Thursday, the car was finally working again”
- “We had run back home. But by then, it was already too late. It was there”
- “I had run down the street naked. I always do stupid stuff when I’m drunk”.
- “He had run for office twice already. I don’t know what made him think it would be third time lucky”
- “They had run over my dog. So I didn’t want to talk to them”
Have Run Or Had Run? Here’s The Correct Version
Another common debate around the past tense of “run” is, “would you say ‘have run’ or ‘had run’?”.
If you’re talking in the past simple you would say “I had run three miles before work”. But, if you’re speaking in the past continuous, it’s better to say “I have run 45 marathons”.
With the past continuous, we’re talking about something that either comes before another action, takes time or gets repeated, or shows some kind of change or growth.
Had Ran Or Had Run? Here’s Why It Doesn’t Matter (usually)
So far in this article, we’ve spoken a lot about why you should never write “had ran”. But, let’s be honest here, most of the time it won’t matter.
Of course, if you’re writing for a publication or an essay, you need to make sure that your grammar is 100% spot on. But, if you’re just talking to a group of friends, most of them won’t even care if you get a bit of grammar wrong.
Like we’ve said in previous articles, grammar is not about impressing English teachers, it’s about making sure we’re better able to communicate with one another.
And now you know the difference between “had run” and “had ran”. The only difference of course is that only one of them is correct.
“Had run” is a great example of what’s called “pluperfect”, when present tense language is used in a past tense sentence.
What we’ve spoken about today goes to show how strange, and perhaps needlessly complex the English language is. What many of us think is easy to figure out can sometimes require a bit of study into how our language operates.
But, at least now you know that the correct term to use is “had run” and not “had ran”.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.