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:


Hi mark roi,

These are quite complex questions and it is not really possible for us to go into great depth in the comments section of the site. For questions like these the appropriate person to help you is your teacher - we cannot offer online lessons! However, I will give you the brief answers possible in this space.

The past perfect is common when one action interrupts or 'overtakes' another. However, it is not always used. The speaker has some latitude in choosing the form which seems to him or her to best express the idea. For example, all of the following are grammatially correct:

I had worked as a nurse before I resigned.

I worked as a nurse before I resigned.

I had been working as a nurse before I resigned.

I was working worked as a nurse before I resigned.

In choosing which to use the speaker is effectively emphasising which aspects of the situation are particularly relevant or important. A time period can be added to any of these other than the last one (past progressive).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,

How about this,

2 weeks ago, I was walking on the sidewalk then it rained suddenly. So, I stopped immediately in a waiting shed to avoid getting wet.

*I used past continuous to express the idea that I was walking before it rained and I stopped walking while raining. Is it correct?

But I read that in past continuous, the shorter action (it rained) is in simple past and it may or may not interrupt the action in progress (I was walking).

E.g. while raining, i was walking on the sidewalk. It is also correct?

Thank you

Hi mark roi,

First of all, your final sentence is not correct. When we use a participle clause like 'While raining' it has the same subject as the main clause, and so this would mean that you are raining (as if you were a cloud!).

The action in the continuous form is the action which is interrupted. I would avoid thinking of the actions as longer or shorter, however.

The natural way to say your sentence would be to use the phrase 'start raining' rather than 'rain':

2 weeks ago, I was walking on the sidewalk then it suddely started to rain.

This makes it clear that it was the onset of rain that caused you to take shelter.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

dear sir/madam,

we use BE verb in present perfect

i have been to Goa(place)

can we use with the past perfect and future perfect?


i had been to Goa

i will have been to Goa.

are above sentences correct?

He may come late, .............. ?
( question tag)
Thanks in advance

Hello Mr Ahmed,

In theory, the question tag should be 'may he not', but I doubt you'd ever hear that. Perhaps you could use 'right', which is an all-purpose question tag, i.e. you can use it with most any form.

In the future, please ask your questions on an appropriate page. In this case, for example, our questions tags page would be the place to ask this, not here.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Question tag:
1. He must have left his mobile home, ..........?
(didn't he - mustn't he)
2. This is your father,.........?
( isn't it - isn't he)

Hell Mr Ahmed Adel,

Please take a look at our question tags page. We're happy to help with questions, but please let us know what you think, explaining why you would use one form or the other. You won't learn as much from us just giving you the answers.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

The problem sir is that I found no reference deals with the question tag in deduction sentences. BTW, I think in sentence number one the answer is MUSTN'T he? As we can't paraphrase the sentence yo form a tag question and in sentence number two, i think the tag is (isn't it)?
Because we have a rule
This is ........, isn't it?
That is........., isn't it?
It doesn't matter if it refers to a human being, animal, or non-living thin.
Am I right sir?

Hell Mr Ahmed,

Yes, you're right: the first one is 'mustn't he' – our question tags page explains this one in the With modal verbs section – and the second one is 'isn't it', for the reason you suggest. Just to be clear, it is possible to say 'isn't he' in a question tag when 'he' is the subject of the verb, e.g. 'He's really fed up, isn't he?' 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team