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

hello,
I couldn't give you proper time. sorry for that.
is it right?

Hello Anniu,

When apologising, 'about that' is normally used after 'sorry': 'sorry about that'. I'm afraid I'm not sure I understand what the first sentence means. By 'proper time' do you mean 'enough time', as in 'enough attention'? If you explain the context a bit, we can help you more effectively.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello 'LearnEnglish Team',
I am confused by the following example found in another English course:
"Stella called me from Nottingham the day before yesterday. I hadn't heard from her for ages. Not since she left university.".

Why not say "... Not since she had left university."?

The first event in chronological order was 'leaving university' followed by the phase of 'not hearing from her' followed by the event of "speaking to each other on the phone". In the recommended form above the first (oldest) event is in the past simple, the second (intermediate) in the past perfect and the third (latest) again in the past simple.

Hello espe,

You could certainly say 'had left' and in a formal style or situation when precision is important, then it would be better than 'left'. But in informal speech, people tend to choose the easier or shortest form that will make sense, and in this case that is 'left'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I read this book last year.
I have read this book.
Difference??

When I reached there the shop had closed.
When I reached there the shop had been closed.
Which one is correct?

Hello innocentashish420,

Neither is incorrect. The first sentence describes the state of the shop (not open). The second sentence is a passive form and describes the action of an unknown person (someone closed the shop).

You can learn more about passive forms here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Please help me with this part, in quotations below, on the use of past perfect.
"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."

My question is, are these rules based on conventions? Would it be wrong is I said, "I would have helped him if he asked." OR "I wish I didn't spend so much money last month."

Hello Vivian,

You can find a detailed explanation of how to use these forms in conditional sentences on our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages. I'd also recommend looking at our Wish and If only page. In all three of the sentences you ask about, strictly speaking, the past perfect is the best form, though it's true that sometimes people use the past simple instead. It can, however, cause confusion in some contexts, so I'd recommend using the past perfect form when it's the best form for what you mean.

By the way, please post your questions just once. We usually just answer just one question per user per day, so we will eventually get to all of your questions.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Pages