Lesson 21 had had

Choose the correct answers:

  1. Sandia __________ (had, had been having, had had) a severe toothache for three days by the time she went to see her dentist.
  2. She also __________ (had, had been having, had had) a worsening headache caused by the toothache. This was the one of the reasons she made the dental appointment.
  3. When the dentist saw her, Sandia ­­­­__________ (had not, did not have, had not had) anything to eat for two days.


If you type “had had” in Microsoft Word, a red wriggly line will appear underneath “had had”, indicating a spelling error. However, a human brain is smarter than a computer, and “had had” is not a mistake!

When you describe a past action or situation before another past event, you use the past perfect tense with “had + past participle”. The past participle of the main verb “have” is “had”, so you get “had had” as the complete verb of the sentence.

  1. In Sentence #1 and #2, had (helping verb) + had (past participle of the main verb “have”)
  2. In Sentence #3, had (helping verb) + not + had (past participle of the main verb “have”)

Note: In these three sentences, the main verb “have” is a non-action verb and cannot be used in a progressive tense. Therefore,  “had been having” is wrong.



The date for the final exam approached so quickly. I __________ (had not, did not have, had not had) a chance to study for it. Fortunately, when it was time to submit the final exam, I __________ (had, have had, had had) some time to review my answers. I hoped that I __________ (did, have done, had done) well.




had had; had had; had not had

had not had; had had; had done