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.



Hello Somerset 82,

The issue here is that the actions you are describing form part of a narrative and the past perfect is used to show one event happened before another - but that second even is not necessarily mentioned in the sentence, but is rather implied by the context. For example, in your first sentence 'Before most people had ever heard of the digital currency, Brian thought it could make him a lot of money' the implication is that people later did head of the digital currency, and the past perfect indicates this.  We can see how the sentence would change if we put the other action in the past perfect:

Before most people heard of the digital currency, Brian had thought it could make him a lot of money.

Here, the meaning is completely different.  It now tells us that Brian's thinking changed, not that what people knew changed.

Your second sentence is similar.  Again, the sentence is part of a narrative and the narrator is looking back from a time in the story (now - but described in the past as it is a story) to a time earlier in the past.  It is this perspective which makes the past perfect the correct tense, not the time of the other action in the sentence.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

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.