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 nareshk,

You are correct to a point when you say '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. However, there is more to it than this. First of all, the past perfect is formed not only with 'had' but with [had + past participle]. Second, there needs to be a relationship of some kind between the two actions. If we are simply describing actions which happen in sequence then the past simple is used:

I arrived at work and had a cup of coffee.

We use the past perfect when there is a relationship as well as a sequence:

I was late and she had already left.



Your examples are not examples of the past perfect. As I said, the past perfect needs [had + past participle]. Your examples are as follows:


i. I had the time to help my daughter [a normal past simple ('had') followed by an object ('the time'); the construction here is 'have the time/money/energy/motivation (etc) to do something']

ii. They had trouble remembering [another normal past simple ('had') followed by an object ('trouble')' the construction here is 'have trouble/problems/difficulty (etc) doing something]


iii. They have never had a course in money or how to invest it [a present perfect form using the verb 'have' ('have had')]


iv. They had difficulty grasping the relationship between their Income Statement and their Balance Sheet [see example ii above]


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Good Morning,
As mentioned above ,[We use the verb had and the past participle for the past perfect:] and[The past perfect continuous is formed with had been and the -ing form of the verb:]

1) When George died he and Anne had been married for nearly fifty years.
2) She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

in 1st sentence: had+married[past participle for marry] : then why been here and what does it mean by placing here.

In 2nd sentence had+lived[past participle] : why been is not used here.

I mean to ask , why sometimes we use had been and have been [ exculding the past perfect and present perfect continuous sentences] in a sentence, what does it means.

Hello asr09,

The form here is [have/has + past participle] or [had + past participle]. In your example 'been' is the past participle of the verb 'be':

They are (present)

They were (past)

They have been {present pefect)

'Married' here is an adjective. It has the same form as the past participle of the verb 'marry' but it is an adjective in this sentence, just as in the phrase 'a married couple'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Good Morning,
Thank you for answering , Mr peter.
1)I meant to say , do we use , have/has+been or had+ been with only adjectives in sentences.[ as you said married is an adjective ]
Had + been +married
[have form as helping verb]+[be form in past participle as a main verb + adjective].
2)You have not used been with had lived because lived is a main verb in the sentence.
3) Do we use Have/has+been or Had+been in only passive sentence or other types of sentences also?
4)How do we come to know married is an adjective or a verb?

Hello asr09,

The form 'have been' is the present perfect of 'be' and can be used in many ways. It can be followed by an adjective or by a noun, as in 'I have been a teacher for twenty years', for example. It is a normal verb form.

'Have been' can also be used as an auxiliary - as part of certain verb forms. For example, we might say 'She has been living there for twenty years' (present perfect continuous) or 'She has been sacked from her job' (present perfect passive).

We recognise 'married' as an adjective through the context. It is possible for the verb 'marry' to be used in a passive form (example: 'They were married by the archbishop himself') but this would require a very clear context.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you! once again.

Jenny has worked on her school project all morning.
I hasn't talked to Nick at the moment because he was rude to me yesterday
Have you waited us for a long time?
I have usually a shower in the evening

is it correct?

Hello Svitlana1992,

Some of these sentences need some changes.


Jenny has been working on her school project all morning. [the continuous form emphasises an ongoing and probably unfinished activity]


I'm not talking to Nick at the moment because he was rude to me yesterday. [the present continuous is used for an action which is in progress at the time of speaking]


Have you been waiting for us for a long time? [see the comment with the first sentence above]


I usually have a shower in the evening. [adverbs usually come before the main verb]


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Mike has already taken 50 photos today and it's only eleven o'clock in the morning.

Help me please! Is it correct? Is it present perfect?

Hello Svitlana1992,

Yes, that sentence is quite correct. It is an example of the present perfect describing an action which began in the past and has an unfinished time reference (today has not ended yet).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team