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:


where is the teacher :-) ?

Hello davide32,

The materials on LearnEnglish are designed to be self-access. That means you can work through them on your own, reading the guides and doing the exercises to test how well you have understood. If you have any specific questions about the material or the exercises, then you can use the comments sections to ask them and we'll answer as soon as we are able.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher,
i'm a new student .. i like this site for to learn english language :-) i'm italian boy and i want to learn english grammatical very well!!:-) i'm studying ther verbs now and i read all in this page..but i have difficult iin the past:
past continuos
past perfect simple
past perfect continuos

because is difficult to read these verbs in sentence..

i've tryed our exercize but i make errors always for the past...help me :-( hi from italy

Hello davide,

It's not really possible for us to explain broad areas of the verb system in these comments replies as we have to deal with many comments every day and such an explanation would be extremely long and complex. That is what the grammar reference pages are for. There are many pages devoted to narrative tenses and you can find them by using the grammar page (here) and clicking on the link to 'verbs'. You can also look through the pages in the Quick Grammar section (here) for pages relevant to your needs.

We'll be happy to explain any particular examples you might find tricky, of course. Just post your example and question in the comments section and we'll respond as soon as we are able.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Can you say" You made me understood or You made me understand"

Hi philipasa,

Oscas Po is right: the correct way to say this is 'You made me understand'. And thanks, Oscas Po, for helping philipasa.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

i think " you made me understand" is the right one

hello sir !
i'm bit confused in these sentences please tell me which sentence is right ... have you been shopping or have u done shopping .

Hello zeeshan,

'Have you been shopping?' is derived from the expression 'to go shopping', which normally refers to shopping for things that are not food, and which many people enjoy shopping for, e.g. clothes, shoes, toys, etc. So this question would be appropriate when, for example, you come home and find that the people you live with are wearing new clothes.

'Have you done the shopping?' (note that it's 'the shopping') refers to shopping for food. So, for example, if you come home and find the people you live with putting away tins of food and fresh vegetables, you might ask this question.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

hellow sir!
i still get confused on when to use perfect and perfect continous tenses both in present and in past. what I understand is I use perfect tense when the action complete and perfect continous when the action is in progress. here i'm talking about the general usage. please clear help to clear my confusion
thank you