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 Thieuluong124,

I'm afraid that sentence is not correct. The word 'yet' does not really fit there and the use of verb forms is inconsistent. You cannot mix the present perfect ('has been') with the past perfect ('had happened') in this way. If you are quoting from a source, please check the original sentence.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I wanted to know if this sentence is correct:"She had thrown the plate and the plate broke."
Thanks in advance!

Hello ArminMaca,

I think two past simple forms ('she threw... the plate broke') would be more likely. However, without knowing the context it is impossible to say for sure.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir
he thanked me for what I had done or what i have done

Hello aseel aftab,

Both forms are possible here. Which is chosen depends upon how the speaker sees the action. If there is an evident present result then 'have' is more likely. If there was a result in the past (at the time of thanking, for example) then 'had' is more likely.

Context is crucial when dealing with aspect (perfective or progressive). It is difficult to comment on decontextualised examples such as this.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I would like to ask which is correct:
1. Was he scolded?
2. Is he scolded?

I am confused when to use Is/Was if the verb is supposed to happen in the past.
For example:

Statement: The teacher caught Jean stealing exam questions the other day.
Question: Was he scolded? or Is he scolded?

Please clarify which of the question is correct.

Did he get scolded? (is this the more 'correct' way of asking it?)

Best regards,

Hello Eir,

If the action happened in the past then the correct form is 'was scolded'. We would use the form 'is scolded' when talking about general time - things that happen typically or all the time rather than in one concrete instance.

As an aside, 'scold' is quite an unusual word with a rather literary ring to it. 'Tell off' is much more common in everyday conversation so the most likely question in your example would be Was he told off?


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

What is the difference between

"She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life."
"She didn’t want to move. She had been living in Liverpool all her life."

Does the first sentence indicate that the action is finished, or the person had died? while the second sentence indicate that the person is still living in Liverpool?

Hello sandwich87,

It depends on the context, but probably it is more a difference of emphasis. The second one emphasises the moment in which she was considering moving a bit more than the first one, but otherwise, unless there were a very specific context that indicated the contrary, they mean the same thing. The emphasis the continuous form suggests could, for example, be a way the writer tries to get us to imagine her experience in that moment a bit more vividly.

It's a subtle difference that is difficult to explain, but I hope that helps you a little bit. If not, please ask us again.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team



1. What is difference between 'she went' and 'she had gone' ?

I would like to say that 'had' is used for past perfect tense i.e when two actions performed in the past then first actions should be expressed in the past perfect.
For example: She had gone to office before I reached home.
I this example 'she had gone' is the fist action completed and ' I reached home' is action took after the 1st action.

2. My doubt here is : Some times we mention had only for single action without mentioning the second action. Please see below examples
i. I had the time to help my daughter
ii. They had trouble remembering
iii. They have never had a course in money or how to invest it
iv. They had difficulty grasping the relationship between their Income Statement and their Balance Sheet

All the above four examples I got from the novel I was reading.

Please clarify my doubts.. as these doubt are hovering in my for few years.