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 Kile13,

I'm not sure what you mean. You seem to be suggesting that 'past perfect' and 'continuous' are mutually exclusive, but this is not the case. It is quite possible to have a past perfect continuous form, and the continuous aspect adds the same meaning each time. Take a look at this page on the continuous aspect to see what it adds to the meaning, irrespective of whether it is past, present, perfect etc.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


First I find it hard to to understand the use of the term mutually exclusive ( I will be more than happy to know what you meant by in this context)

However P.P and P.P.C are very different in my sense ( I guess that is why one called P.P while the other P.P.C though they might refer to similar situations)

That is why I don't understand why they are explained at the same page. If I'm not wrong most if not all of the example sentences above couldn't be formed as P.P.C...for all refers to P.P.

So if they are not relevant to P.P.C...I don't understand or see a point to place them together with P.P.C (unless I'm wrong)

My quest is due to my lack of using the tenses by rule as I tend to use them by hearing the sentence if it sound right or not in my sense ( while of course the rules are somewhere in the mind but I never manage to learn them by heart)

Since I'm not great at grammar and I'm working on manuscript I'm going back to the basic to improve my grammar as much as I can. Since I need a clear cut notion between the two ( P.P&P.P.C) I'm submitting this quest.

In an other matter: are you familiar with good Site,School, course...etc. that I can join to to learn a little more about grammar and (book) editing?

Thank you for your patient and I hope I don't bother you with this slight confusion...

Hello Kile13,

If two things are mutually exclusive then it means that they must be one or the other, not both at the same time.

Both of these sentences are past perfect:

I had walked the dog before then.

I had been walking the dog before then.

One is past perfect simple, the other past perfect continuous; both are past perfect. The point is that past perfect forms have certain characteristics in common, as described on this page. Continuous forms add another layer of meaning, as described on the page to which I linked in my last answer. A form does not stop being past perfect when it becomes continuous; the continuous aspect adds information about how the action is viewed by the speaker, but does not replace or remove information from the past perfect.

This is the nature of verb forms. They are made up of a verb form showing time reference (past or present in English) with the possible addition of an aspect (perfective and/or continuous). The past perfect continuous is not a different tense; it is a past tense with two aspects. To understand its use you need to understand what extra information the continuous aspect adds, which is on the page I linked to previously. For example, one element of the continuous aspect is incompleteness. Compare:

I had read the book some years before.

I had been reading the book some years before.

In the first sentence the action is completed: the book was finished. In the second sentence we understand that the reading took place but the book was not finished. Both sentences are past perfect, but the continuous aspect adds this extra information.

I hope that clarifies it for you. However, I'm afraid that we're not able to provide this kind of in-depth individual explanation for users because we simply don't have time to do this. Our primary role is to maintain the materials, not to conduct grammar lessons online for individuals. Thus, while I hope that is of use, I won't be able to continue the discussion after this. Feel free to ask any questions you have about the material on the page, but we won't be able to answer questions which ask for, in effect, grammar lessons in the comments sections!

With regard to your other question, the British Council does not comment on or recommend other sites, schools or courses so I'm afraid you'll have to do your own research on that one.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I understand what you explained completely and this is not what I ment. ( I understand the mutually exclusive too even before but I want to be sure) however, I simply think that though the p.p and P.p.c both dealing with the past tense I think that each deserves a page of its own since the very intrinsic difference each of them represent and that is ( I think) for the benefit of us the reader, learner...

Concerning your examples I think you missed important aspect of the P.P.c for even the sentence about the dog on P.P.c is correct in the form you describe it it isn't differ from the P.p sentence for in most cases the P.P.c need a comparison sentence to follow for if not it gives the same meaning of the P.P. And you can see it in the second sentence about the book too. By the way you ended both P.p.c sentences you closed the information. I don't think that it's clearly understood in ' I had been reading the book some years before' we can infer that the book hasn't been finished. For the ending of ' some years before' gives the notion that the book was read Completely ( or has been read , I'm not sure) for the use of p.p.C in such case is to give comparison to an other act. "I had read this..." Is complete task. However in ' I had been reading the book some years before' to give the P.P.c its essence it should have been( and I might wrong about it) ' I had been reading the book some years before but yet (have)finished it. Or ' I had been reading the book( continious action) almost to it end but then I remembered I have read it some years before( or something like this). I, my self don't get the notion from your genuine sentence that the reading took place but yet finished. The action (p.p.c) lasted for some time before another action in the past happened.( I had been reading the book some years before but not entirely/ but didn't finish it) might I'm wrong but that is how I have been taught and it makes more sense to me...if I'm completely wrong and I appreciate you to stand on this part (of how the sentence is ending) then I need to start my schooling again and change my sense.


I might be able to shed some light on at least part of your question. The sentence 'I had read the book years before.' indicates that I finished the book years before. The second sentence 'I had been reading the book years before' indicates that I started the book, but at that time, at least, had not finished it. I might have finished it recently, but as that information is not given, it has no bearing on the sentence itself.

In your example of 'I had been reading the book almost to the end but then I remembered I have read it some years before.' is not correct. There are two correct ways for that sentence. Either 'I had been reading the book but then I remembered I had read it years before' or 'I had read the book almost to the end but then I remembered I had read it before'. Using the phrase 'almost to the end' indicates an end point before you stopped reading, which means the action was no longer continuous. The P.P.C.. (I like the way you did that, by the way) has no end until the next action, in this case remembering that I had read the book before.

I hope that if you read this, it helps.

When do we need to use "had" and "have or ''has"???
I have finished my homework"
I had finished my homework" what are the different between these sentences?

Hello Shali,

This is not a question of when to use 'have' and 'had' ('has' is simply the third-person form of 'have') as these are merely auxiliary verbs and part of the verb form. The question is when to use each verb form, and there are two different ones here: the present perfect and the past perfect. Both are examples of perfective forms - you can read more about this here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


"She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life."
How can i determine if she died or not in these sentences?

Hello Cesar98,

There is no direct indication of anyone dying in these sentences. It's possible that the woman being spoken about here is dead in the present, as these sentences speak about the past, but only the context could indicate that.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi kirk
Past perfect mostly use with other sentence like indefinite+perfect etc
If we use only past perfect sentence
Would it mean similar like past indefinite?
"She had lost the key"
"She lost the key"