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Past perfect

Level: intermediate

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:

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:


Hello Ahmed Imam,

The past simple is the best option here as the verb does not describe a particular action but rather a permanent fact about Jane - something which will always be true and for which we would use the present simple normally, or the past simple in a narrative.



The LearnEnglish Team

Could anyone help me with the prepositions, which one is correct ..i am going to the wedding or i am going for the wedding.

Hello Anubhav,

When we are going as a guest or to participate in the ceremony, we say 'to the wedding'.



The LearnEnglish Team

What is the past perfect tense of ,"What shall we do?"

Hello Parva,

'Shall' is a modal verb and does not have a past perfect form. The perfect form of the modal would be 'should have', as in 'What should we have done?' but whether or not this is appropriate would depend on the context in which it is used.



The LearnEnglish Team

My question is related to the usage of "have had" , would it be correct to say

-As if you could'nt be any taller, you have had to wear heels too

Or would you rather say "you had to wear heels too".

The above statement is a present scenario .


Hello Anubhav,

The correct form here would be had to...

The meaning of had to here is similar to 'you chose to' or 'you insisted on' rather than expressing obligation.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks .. I get it now .. Could you also explain in what scenarios one would you "have had to" instead of have to

Hello again Anubhav,

I can't think of a context in which 'As if...' would be followed by '...would have had to...'

We use [would have + VERB3] for hypothetical/unreal situations, but 'as if' is not used to introduce conditional forms. We use 'as if' in the same way as 'as though': to show not a condition followed by a result, but rather the ironic surprise of the speaker at something they consider unnecessary or exaggerated.



The LearnEnglish Team

My bad .. what i meant to ask was what's the meaning of "have had to" like in following sentences and what is the general usage of "have had to"

1.Market organizers have had to be creative. ...... Here why can't i say have to be creative

2.Blackpool’s Liam Feeney admits they have had to find different ways of winning.... why not they have to

Thanks a lot