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:


Peter, thanks a lot !!!

I ve decided to refresh my english gramar but ther's a couple obsticles on my way.
Thanks to british counsile and You ther's no way that couldn't be overturned !

Best wishes

is there any difference between using (protect ourselves protect us (for the same subject)

Hello ahmed only,

If the subject is 'we' then we would use 'ourselves'.  If the subject is something else then we would use 'us':

We can protect ourselves with anti-mosquito spray.

Anti-mosquito spray can protect us.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

i also want a strict answer about the difference between the past perfect & the past perfect continuous because here in my own country every one has an opinion about it everyone is distorting

Hi ahmed only,

Since they are often used to express a difference in the speaker's view, it can be quite a challenge to learn to use these two forms properly. In general, the continuous form is used for actions or situations that are viewed by the speaker as temporary or relatively short, whereas the simple form is used for more permanent or longer actions or situations.

For example, in the case of the two sentences you ask about in your other comment, the continuous form ("How long have you been waiting here?") is the best form in most situations because presumably the person who has been waiting has not been there for months or years. Even if he or she had been waiting for years, the continuous forms are often used in situations which have just finished (in this case, the waiting has just finished if the person asking the question is the person who was being waited for).

Does this help? If you haven't already, I'd also suggest looking at our present perfect, perfective aspect and continuous aspect pages for more examples and explanations.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

what 's the difference between (How long have you been waiting here?)(How long have you waited here?)

Hello Sir,

I am very much happy to learn English with British council. You teachers are wonderful!

I have a question related to the topic. Could you please tell me which alternative is correct?

a) The train was left by then.


b) The train had left by then.

Hello junayedriy,

The second sentence is correct.  The past perfect is formed with had + the past participle (third form), not the verb 'be'.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I'am happy to be a member of this website,i just pray the I will learn more than my expectation.

if u plz can u tell me when i can use past perfect and past perfect continous
and present perfect and present perfect coninous
slowly plz coz  i have conflict and i don't undersatnd them