I would like to ask you about the past perfect tense in English. As far as I know, past perfect tense is used when we talk about something that had happened back in the past (assuming two actions took place). For example,
1. I told him that I had finished my work.
2. They had left by the time I arrived there.
Could you please enlighten me on using “had had” in past perfect tense in English?
You are right. The past perfect tense is used to distinguish between two actions in the past, or between an action and a situation or time in the past. Your question about “had had” has been asked a few times before, perhaps because of the repetition of the verb “had”.
When the past perfect tense “had had” is used in a sentence, the first “had” is the auxiliary verb that we use in every past perfect tense structure. The second “had” is the past participle of the main verb. So whenever the verb “to have” is used as the main verb in a past perfect tense structure, we use “had had”. Although we seem to be repeating the same verb “had”, each “had” has a different function. Here are some examples of the use of “had had” :
“She had had her lunch when her mother phoned.”
“After the earthquake, the government gave everyone who had had a house some money to help them rebuild it.”