We use the verb had and the past participle for the past perfect:

I had finished the work.
She had gone .

The past perfect continuous is formed with had been and the -ing form of the verb:

I had been finishing the work
She had been going.

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 tense:

  • 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.

We normally use the past perfect continuous for this:

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 we had done several times up to a point in the past and continued to do 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.
I had been watching the programme every week, but I missed the last episode.

We often use a clause with since to show when something started in the past:

They had been staying with us since the previous week.
I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there since I left school.
I had been watching that programme every week since it started, but I missed the last episode.

  • when we are reporting our experience and including up to the (then) present:

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 but is important at the time of reporting:

I couldn’t get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn’t at home. She had gone shopping.

We use the past perfect to talk about the past in conditions, hypotheses and wishes:

I would have helped him if he had asked.
It was very dangerous. What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Exercise

Comments

Hello Muhammad,

It's not possible to say which of these sentences is correct without knowing the context, as both sentences could be used depending on what you want to say. But in general, the past perfect isn't used to refer to a past action unless you want emphasise that it occurred before another past action.

The past simple is used far more often than the past perfect in most contexts. If you read some of the articles in our Magazine or most anywhere on the internet, you can see this for yourself.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Is it correct to say "I had been awake till 7am" or "i was awake till 7am"?

Hello Maggot,

Both can be correct but it depends on the context. The past simple ('was') tells us about an action in the past. The past perfect ('had been') also tells us about an action in the past, but requires another action in the past to which it refers. Perfect forms are only used when relating the time of one action to another time reference. Therefore it may be appropriate to use 'had been', but it will depend on the context.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello ,
I want to ask which one of these sentences is correct ?
-She looks very tried. She had been cleaning the house for a long time.
-She looks very tired. She has been cleaning the house for a long time.
and I also want to know if they are both correct, what's the difference between them.

Hello Marian_Michel,

The second example is correct and shows the relationship between a present state (looking tired) and the past action which caused it (cleaning the house for a long time).

The first example is not correct. The past perfect is used to show relationships between two events in the past, not a present situation and a past action.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.teacher.why the second example not correct. As i know we use present perfect continues for action started in the past and continued to present.

Hello ronaz2015,

My apologies - I got the examples mixed up and my comments refer to the other examples: the second example is fine; the first example is not. I'll edit the first reply to correct it.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can you please explain the diference between these two sentenses?

1.She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

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

Hello tssang,

We have a page which describes the different between present perfect simple and continuous. These sentences are past perfect, but the distinction is the same. You can find the page here and I am sure it will answer your question very fully.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
I want to know the difference between the two sentences:
"She didn’t want to move. She had been living in Liverpool all her life."
"She has been living in Liverpool all her life."

To be more specific I want to know when to use past perfect and present perfect.
As far as I have studied the articles it has been written both indicates the work is finished.

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