What are the different meanings of the following sentences?

  1. I had had too many chocolates, so I was too full to eat dinner yesterday.
  2. I had too many chocolates, so I was too full to eat dinner yesterday.

What is the definition for the first "had" in the following sentence. What about the second "had"?

I had had too many chocolates, so I was too full to eat dinner yesterday.

marked as duplicate by tchrist, Jim, ab2, NVZ, user140086 May 27 '16 at 14:34

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  • @tchrist, yes! Thank you for that - the diagram is excellent. It doesn't show "had had", but in the OP's question, the second "had" can be substituted by "eaten", and if it were, it would be a bit more parallel, no? – Bea Bonmot May 15 '16 at 4:10

The first one uses the past perfect (a past, completed action) version of to have - which happens to be had had, which always seems to confuse people to no end.

The second one uses the past version of to have, which is simply had.

  • What is the actual context meaning? @Nick – user1187968 May 15 '16 at 4:03
  • The first one basically just emphasizes the order of events - that you had already eaten too many chocolates before dinner, and as a result were not able to eat any more. The second one doesn't technically make it clear that you had eaten the chocolates before dinner, but then again it's really the only possible meaning in that context so the two sentences don't really have much difference in meaning. – Nick May 15 '16 at 4:19

Please see comment by tchrist and check out the very cool diagram via the link there.

For an actual example of "had had", as in:

"We had had the car for ten years before it broke down last winter."

englishpage.com states, "With Non-Continuous Verbs and some non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, we use the Past Perfect to show that something started in the past and continued up until another action in the past."


Another chart you might find helpful can be found at:


p.s. If it were me, I would have just said, "Yesterday? I had chocolate for dinner." ; )

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