Level: intermediate

The past perfect is made from the verb had and the past participle of a verb:

I had finished the work.
She had gone.

The past perfect continuous is made from had been and the -ing form of a verb:

had been working there for a year.
They had been painting the bedroom.

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:

  • 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.

For this use, we often use the past perfect continuous:

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 that happened several times before a point in the past and continued 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.

  • when we are reporting our experience up to a point in the past:

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 and is important at a later time in the past

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

We often use expressions with for and since with the past perfect:

I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there for ten years
I had been watching that programme every week since it started, but I missed the last episode.

We do not normally use the past perfect continuous with stative verbs. We use the past perfect simple instead:

Up until that moment, I'd never believed (NOT been believing) in astrology.

Past perfect


Past perfect and past simple


Past perfect and hypotheses

We can also use the past perfect to make hypotheses about the past (when we imagine something). See these pages:


Hello prapsahu,

The first one can be used in a wider variety of contexts than the second one, as the use of the past perfect refers to some other past point in time. That past point in time would have to be clear from the context. Otherwise, these two sentences mean the same thing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have a question regarding these examples:
• 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.

If Past Perfect is always used to indicate an action that happened before another past action, why actions that happened before (here "since I left school" and "since it started") are in Past Simple even though they happened before the actions in Past Perfect ("had worked" and "had been watching")? I understand, that in these examples we have other actions in Past Simple ("I was sorry" and "I missed") that require Past Perfect, but why we use Past Simple after "since" in not clear. Are there any special rules for the use of "since", why isn't it "since I had left school" and "since it had started"? I couldn't find any information about that.

Sorry to bother you, if this is just some misunderstanding of mine,

Hi Yulia,

This is a tricky area and I can understand why it seems confusing. There is some information on this on our page on the past perfect which might be helpful.

In most cases, both the past simple and the past perfect are possible. The reason why the past simple is possible is that the past perfect is used not to indicate that one action was before another, but to show a connection between two events in the past, just as the present perfect shows a connection between the past and the present. For example:

I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there since I left school.

Here the past perfect is used because 'had worked' is related to 'was sorry' - the reason for the speaker's sorry is that they had worked there. The information about leaving school is not directly related to the speaker's feelings.

Similiarly, in your other example the connected events are 'had been watching' and 'missed', because it is the act of missing an episode that ends the former sequence of watching every week.

In both these examples it would not be incorrect to use the past perfect, as you say. However, the past simple is more likely because the events in the past simple do not really have any connection with the other actions; they are simply time references.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

It can be got done or it can get done.it occurs me that both are same.

Hello DilanS,

No, the first form is not correct in standard English, and might even be confusing in non-standard English. The second one is fine.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,

Could you please explain why I can't use "offered" in stead of "had offered" in the sentence below? Is that because the fact that David got t he job was important at the moment of speaking, hence perfect tense must be used?

Everything in Julie's life had been going well until her world fell apart just a month before. A large company had offered David an important position that would require him to move to France.

Also am I correct in understanding that when we tell a story, we have to change every tenses from present to past? ( I.e. simple present to simple past, present perfect to past perfect, and so on) Thanks

Hello Widescreen,

Here the past perfect is used to refer to something that happened at a previous past time. In other words, David was offered a job abroad and then her world started to fall apart. Using the past perfect form 'had offered' makes it clear that the offer came before her world starting to fall apart. It's possible to use the past simple form 'offered' instead, but it's unlikely because it doesn't show that the offer came first, which seems to be important here. You might want to take a look at our Quick grammar Past perfect page, as it explains this in some detail.

There are many ways to tell a story. Generally, past forms are used, for the most part in the ways you describe, but it's also possible to use present tenses as well. One great way to learn how to tell stories is to read them, which it sounds like you are already doing! I'd encourage you to keep it up.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

is this sentence grammatically correct ( i had of thinking) if it so ,what does it mean.is it similar to i had been thinking .

Hello DilanS,

No, I'm afraid that's not a correct sentence in English.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

If you don't mind me asking so, could you explain why is it wrong.