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.



my score is100 %. point scored 36 out of 36.

Help, what are the rules when using past perfect in conjunction with "because"?
He attacked me because I had slept with his wife.
We went to the cinema because we wanted to watch that movie.
In the second example I have used past simple instead of past perfect. Could you please tell me if both sentences are correct and if so, why is past perfect valid for the first but not applicable for the second.

Hello Stoobie,
Both sentences are correct, but in the first example you could use either the past perfect or the past simple in the second half, and both would be fine.  Which you choose is dependent what you choose to emphasise.  If you want to emphasise the connection between the two actions (one is the result of the other) then the past perfect is more likely - as it is in this particular context.
In the second example the time relationship is different. Presumably you still wanted to watch the film when you got to the cinema, meaning there is not a clear sequential relationship between the actions.  It can help to imagine a present / present perfect equivalent:
I'm going to the cinema because I want to see the film. (correct)
I'm going to the cinema because I have wanted to see the film. (incorrect)
I hope that clarifies it for you.  It is a difficult area.
For more information on the perfective aspect look here (click).
For specific information on the past perfect look here (click).
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Score: 100.00%
Points scored 36 out of 36

not bad thanks

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

Hello Amal.mahmoud,

I've answered this question on this page for you.  Sometimes it takes us a little while to answer all the questions - we are a small team and there are many questions every day! However, we do answer the questions we receive so please be patient and ask each question once only, and we will answer as quickly as we can.

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.

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