Conjugate pouvoir in Le Plus-que-parfait (pluperfect tense)

Le Plus-que-parfait in French is the direct equivalent of the Pluperfect in English. It could be described as "the past of the past":

e.g. After I had been able to buy a car, traveling to work was no longer an issue.

Of course, English speakers are likely to make contractions: I'd been able to, etc.

 

Look at these examples of "pouvoir" in the Plus-que-parfait :

Je n'avais jamais pu parler correctement avant.
I had never been able to speak properly before.

Tu avais pu leur dire au revoir avant qu'ils ne partent.
You had been able to say goodbye to them before they left.

Il n'avait jamais pu lui avouer la vérité.
He had never been able to tell her the truth.

Si nous avions pu, nous n'aurions jamais commencé.
If we had been able to, we would have never started.
If we could have, we would have never started.

Vous aviez pu le voir une dernière fois.
You had been able to see him one last time.

Ils n'avaient jamais pu l'admettre.
They had never been able to admit it.

Notice that the Plus-que-parfait of "pouvoir" follows this construction:

Verb avoir in the Imparfait + pu (past participle of pouvoir)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Ils n'avaient jamais pu l'admettre.
They had never been able to admit it.


Tu avais pu leur dire au revoir avant qu'ils ne partent.
You had been able to say goodbye to them before they left.


Vous aviez pu le voir une dernière fois.
You had been able to see him one last time.


Si nous avions pu, nous n'aurions jamais commencé.
If we had been able to, we would have never started.
If we could have, we would have never started.


Je n'avais jamais pu parler correctement avant.
I had never been able to speak properly before.



Il n'avait jamais pu lui avouer la vérité.
He had never been able to tell her the truth.


Q&A Forum 3 questions, 7 answers

JudyA2Kwiziq community member

I do not understand why " ne " is used in the phrase: avant qu'ils ne partent. Meaning before they left

Asked 2 weeks ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Judy,

Just to add to Chris’ excellent answer, this is the Kwiziq lesson referring to the use of the ‘ne explétif’ used with the expression ‘avant que’ -

https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/how-to-use-avant-que-ne-expletif-subjonctif-before-i-do

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The "ne" is not a negation, it is a stylistic element called the "ne explétif". There are certain verbs and phrases with which it needs to be used, some it may be used and others it shouldn't be used at all. There are lessons for this on kwiziq at a later stage.

I do not understand why " ne " is used in the phrase: avant qu'ils ne partent. Meaning before they left

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CrystalMaidenC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Can you use eut/fut instead of avait, is that wrong?

I know it's only gonna be right for literary writing and storytelling, but still. You can do that instead of the pluperfect in writing, right?
Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

No. eut/fut are passé simple and need to be used accordingly. Passé simple is not a replacement for past perfect tense.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
CrystalMaiden is talking about the past anterior which is the literary equivalent of the pluperfect. It's formed using the passé simple of avoir or être.

Can you use eut/fut instead of avait, is that wrong?

I know it's only gonna be right for literary writing and storytelling, but still. You can do that instead of the pluperfect in writing, right?

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William C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Inclusion of "lui" in answer.

I am puzzled by the inclusion of "lui" in this question. The question was "You had been able to say goodbye. A possible translation is "Tu avais pu dire au revoir"
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi William,

In the lesson , I think it is, "Tu avais pu leur dire au revoir....".

It is just , "You were able to say goodbye to them..." rather than just to say goodbye as you suggest. Just a bit more precise.

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I am not sure what your question is. Maybe it's this?

Tu avais pu lui dire au revoir. -- You had been able to say goodbye to him.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I am not sure what your question is. Maybe it's this?

Tu avais pu lui dire au revoir. -- You had been able to say goodbye to him.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Inclusion of "lui" in answer.

I am puzzled by the inclusion of "lui" in this question. The question was "You had been able to say goodbye. A possible translation is "Tu avais pu dire au revoir"

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