had had

When to use had had in English?

Yes Yes Yes!

Had had is possible in English! 

We use “Had had” in the past perfect verb tense. 

Let me explain….

When to use had had

“Had had” is the past perfect of the verb “to have”

“Had wanted is the past perfect of the verb “to want”

Let’s understand the past perfect

Form of past perfect 

The past perfect is formed by using had + the past participle of the verb you need.


The past perfect of “to see” is “ had seen” (seen is the past participle of see)

The past participle of “to have” is “had 

When do we use the past perfect

We use the past perfect when we need to say that something happened before something else in the past 

Look at this example:

I left my house (past simple)

I went to the shop (past simple)

I tried to buy a drink (past simple)

I realized I had forgotten my wallet (past perfect)

The action of forgetting my wallet happened before I left my house.

Another example:

I arrived home 

My mother gave me dinner.

I told her that I had had dinner in the city.

The contraction of had had

(A contraction is when we make a word shorter using (apostrophe))

When we are speaking and writing informally we would probably write

I told her that I’d had dinner in the city.

This is because it is a little difficult to say had had in spoken English.

(Be careful because this contraction can also mean “I would”)

More Examples of had had

When I teach the past perfect to students they often try to use it more than necessary. It is not that common. We like to keep things simple and tell a linear story in the past. 

  1. Past simple → (2) Past simple → (3) Past simple →  

But sometimes we realize that some action that happened before the first past simple is important and the listener didn’t know that this action had happened.


John: Did you enjoy the movie yesterday?

Peter: It was ok but I’d seen it before.

In this example, Peter wants to tell John that he had seen the movie before yesterday and that changed his experience of the movie yesterday. (He knew the story of the movie.)  

This is why we use the past perfect. To tell people that something had happened before.


John: Did you meet Alice at the party yesterday? She is nice.

Peter: Yes, I did, I’d met her before though. I went to school with Alice.

In this example, John didn’t know that Peter had known Alice for a long time and Peter wanted to talk about a time before a time in the past ( before the party) 

Write some examples of conversations in the comments too practice using “Had had

Read about the difference between “have had” and “has had” here.