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 sir. Could you please tell me if the following sentence is grammatically correct? It has to be with reported speech:

"Which computer did you like best?" My mother asked my father.
My mother asked my father which computer he had liked best.

I wrote this last one (the reported sentence), but I'm not sure if it is correct, so I'll appreciate your help.
Thanks in advance.

Hello Daniel H,

Yes, that is correct and is probably the best answer in general.

Just so you know, it's also possible to write it as '... which computer he liked best', though the meaning is a bit different. If you use the past perfect form, it views your father's evaluation of the computers at that past moment in time, i.e at the time he was in the computer store, he liked one the most.

If you use 'liked' instead of 'had liked', the time reference is not as specific. This could, for example, indicate that your father still likes one computer over the others now, some time after he visited the computer store.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Can I use "I am here since morning, instead of I have been here since morning"?

Hello Bishad,

No, I'm afraid not. The present perfect is needed here and the present simple ('am') would not be correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello there,

One of the above examples says 'Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours'

Would it be correct if say 'Everything was wet. It was raining for hours'

Thank you for your help.

Kind Regards,
SK

Hello SK,

That really depends on the context. If you have one in mind, please let us know, but I can't think of a context off the top of my head when the sentence you propose would be natural.

The idea in the example sentence is that you make an observation about a past situation ('everything was wet') and then explain how that situation happened due to a previous action ('it had been raining').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

My previous comment was sent by accident. Sorry! Below is my second question.

In the following sentences, there is only one event happened in a past time. Why is past perfect used instead of past simple?

He had gone to bed by ten o'clock last night.
By the end of last month, they had had little money to spend.

Thank you!

Hello Viva789,

A second time reference (often a second event) is always required for perfect tenses. However, it does not always occur in the same sentence. It could be in another sentence or it could be implied by what we know about the world. Sentences need to be seen in context, not in isolation.

Please note that while we are happy to comment on our own examples (for which we take responsibility), we do not comment on examples from other sources (books, websites and so on). This is because we cannot vouch for their accuracy or suitability, and do not know their context, source, rhetorical purpose and so on. As an example, your second sentence here looks highly unlikely to be correct, but as a decontextualised example from an unknown source it is not possible for us to be sure.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Scenario A. Both past simple and past perfect are correct.
They found that many trees fell during the typhoon last week.
They found that many trees had fallen during the typhoon last week.

Scenario B. Only past perfect is correct.
The police told us that the lost car had been found.

These two scenarios look the same to me. I wonder why in scenario B, only past perfect is correct. And in scenario A, is there any subtle difference between past simple and past perfect?

Also, I've got another question. Why is past perfect used in the following sentence, instead

Hello Vivi789,

I wouldn't be quite so categorical about whether the past perfect is required, possible or impossible. It is really a question of context and the interrelation of the different events, but there is usually a choice available, even if one for or another is more likely.

Perfect forms show a connection between the event being described and another later event. A perfect form is used when we are looking back on that event: from the present in the case of present perfect forms and from the past in the case of past perfect forms. The connection, however, is subjective. If the speaker thinks that the earlier event influenced the later event then a perfect form is used. This can be because it causes the second event, for example, or changes our understanding of it. The past simple is used when there is no relationship other than sequence between the two events. For example:

I cleaned my teeth and I drank my coffee. [two events in a sequence]

I had cleaned my teeth before I drank my coffee. [we understand there is some connection here - probably the coffee tasted bad because of the taste of the toothpaste, or else I am saying that I don't need to clean my teeth now because I already did it before the coffee]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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