We use the verb had and the past participle for the past perfect:

I had finished the work.
She had gone .

The past perfect continuous is formed with had been and the -ing form of the verb:

I had been finishing the work
She had been going.

The past perfect is used in the same way as the present perfect, but it refers to a time in the past, not the present.

We use the past perfect tense:

  • for something that started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past:

When George died he and Anne had been married for nearly fifty years.
She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

We normally use the past perfect continuous for this:

She didn’t want to move. She had been living in Liverpool all her life.
Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours.

  • for something we had done several times up to a point in the past and continued to do after that point:

He was a wonderful guitarist. He had been playing ever since he was a teenager.
He had written three books and he was working on another one.
I had been watching the programme every week, but I missed the last episode.

We often use a clause with since to show when something started in the past:

They had been staying with us since the previous week.
I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there since I left school.
I had been watching that programme every week since it started, but I missed the last episode.

  • when we are reporting our experience and including up to the (then) present:

My eighteenth birthday was the worst day I had ever had.
I was pleased to meet George. I hadn’t met him before, even though I had met his wife several times.

  • for something that happened in the past but is important at the time of reporting:

I couldn’t get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn’t at home. She had gone shopping.

We use the past perfect to talk about the past in conditions, hypotheses and wishes:

I would have helped him if he had asked.
It was very dangerous. What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hi,
Could you explain why we need to use past perfect in this sentence: "Meeting her has yet been the luckiest that had happened to me"

Hi Thieuluong124,

I'm afraid that sentence is not correct. The word 'yet' does not really fit there and the use of verb forms is inconsistent. You cannot mix the present perfect ('has been') with the past perfect ('had happened') in this way. If you are quoting from a source, please check the original sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I wanted to know if this sentence is correct:"She had thrown the plate and the plate broke."
Thanks in advance!

Hello ArminMaca,

I think two past simple forms ('she threw... the plate broke') would be more likely. However, without knowing the context it is impossible to say for sure.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir
he thanked me for what I had done or what i have done

Hello aseel aftab,

Both forms are possible here. Which is chosen depends upon how the speaker sees the action. If there is an evident present result then 'have' is more likely. If there was a result in the past (at the time of thanking, for example) then 'had' is more likely.

Context is crucial when dealing with aspect (perfective or progressive). It is difficult to comment on decontextualised examples such as this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I would like to ask which is correct:
1. Was he scolded?
2. Is he scolded?

I am confused when to use Is/Was if the verb is supposed to happen in the past.
For example:

Statement: The teacher caught Jean stealing exam questions the other day.
Question: Was he scolded? or Is he scolded?

Please clarify which of the question is correct.

P.S.
Did he get scolded? (is this the more 'correct' way of asking it?)

Best regards,
Eir

Hello Eir,

If the action happened in the past then the correct form is 'was scolded'. We would use the form 'is scolded' when talking about general time - things that happen typically or all the time rather than in one concrete instance.

As an aside, 'scold' is quite an unusual word with a rather literary ring to it. 'Tell off' is much more common in everyday conversation so the most likely question in your example would be Was he told off?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the difference between

"She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life."
"She didn’t want to move. She had been living in Liverpool all her life."

Does the first sentence indicate that the action is finished, or the person had died? while the second sentence indicate that the person is still living in Liverpool?

Hello sandwich87,

It depends on the context, but probably it is more a difference of emphasis. The second one emphasises the moment in which she was considering moving a bit more than the first one, but otherwise, unless there were a very specific context that indicated the contrary, they mean the same thing. The emphasis the continuous form suggests could, for example, be a way the writer tries to get us to imagine her experience in that moment a bit more vividly.

It's a subtle difference that is difficult to explain, but I hope that helps you a little bit. If not, please ask us again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

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