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Past perfect

Click on the highlighted text for an explanation of the past perfect tense in use.

Language in context

Over the last twenty years, the average size of households has fallen dramatically. The number of one person households has grown , due largely to the ageing of the population, as has the number of one parent families. Couples having smaller families have also contributed to the fall in household size.

In 1976, 60% of families were couples with children. By 1996, this had fallen to 51%. Part of this change can be attributed to the increase in one parent families with dependent children, but most of the change is due to the increase in the proportion of couple-only families. People are now having children later in life, and are living longer. Therefore, they are spending more time living in couple-only families, both before they have families and after their children have left home.

However, children are leaving home later. In 1981, 34% of children aged 20-24 lived with their parents. By 1991, this had increased to 40%. This increase has to some extent countered, the fall in the couples with non-dependent children only.

(Source: ABS Yearbook Australia 1997, Number 79, Australian Government Publishing Service, ACT, p.81)

Copyright in ABS data resides with the Commonwealth of Australia.

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This is a past perfect verb. It describes an activity which was completed by 1996. The past perfect may be used to describe the earlier of two points in the past. The year 1996 is in the past. The time before and up to 1996 is in the earlier past.
This is a past perfect verb. It describes an activity which was completed by 1991. The past perfect may be used to describe the earlier of two points in the past. The year 1991 is in the past. The time before and up to 1991 is in the earlier past.
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