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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:


are you have english by fluent ?

hi, I am new. I come from Vietnam and I want to improve my English.That is very important with me.

Dear British Council,
My name is Asya and I'm 14 years old.
I'm from Russia, and english language is very important for me!
great regards

Hello everybody!
As an exercise, I wrote a story using the past perfect simple tense, but I have a doubt. Following the grammatical structure for the past perfect simple tense (person/subject+had+verb in past participle+complement), I wrote:
"... But I had had to find her..."
Is this sentence correct? I mean, Can I use the double "had" in the same sentence?  or I must write "...But I had have to find her..." 
Thank you very much.

Hi Berenice

It sounds strange to native speakers as well, but it's correct. When we say it, the first 'had' is contracted - I'd had to... For example:

I was late for class because I'd had to wait for my friend. 



​The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Jack!
Thank you very much for your help  :)

first i would like to thank you again and again for your great help.
"I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month".
I wish (it's a present so i think we should use past simple instead of perfect) ??
i wish i did not spend so much money last month.
i wished i had not spent so much money last month?
please advice

Dear Hamad,
The wish is in the present time, but not spending money is in an imaginary past time. That's why the sentence uses the past perfect.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear British Council
Really very much thanks for help me to understand English. I need learn it because this is very important for my job. I am from Peru and wait that you continues with that.
Have a nice day!