Learn about the past perfect and do the exercises to practise using it.
The past perfect is made from the verb had and the past participle of a verb:
I had finished the work.
She had gone.
The past perfect continuous is made from had been and the -ing form of a verb:
I had been working there for a year.
They had been painting the bedroom.
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:
- 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.
For this use, we often use the past perfect continuous:
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 that happened several times before a point in the past and continued 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.
- when we are reporting our experience up to a point in the past:
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 and is important at a later time in the past:
I couldn't get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn't at home. She had gone shopping.
We often use expressions with for and since with the past perfect:
I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there for ten years.
I had been watching that programme every week since it started, but I missed the last episode.
We do not normally use the past perfect continuous with stative verbs. We use the past perfect simple instead:
Up until that moment, I'd never believed (NOT
been believing) in astrology.
- Past perfect
- Past perfect and past simple
Past perfect and hypotheses
We can also use the past perfect to make hypotheses about the past (when we imagine something). See these pages: