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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:


Thank you! once again.

Jenny has worked on her school project all morning.
I hasn't talked to Nick at the moment because he was rude to me yesterday
Have you waited us for a long time?
I have usually a shower in the evening

is it correct?

Hello Svitlana1992,

Some of these sentences need some changes.


Jenny has been working on her school project all morning. [the continuous form emphasises an ongoing and probably unfinished activity]


I'm not talking to Nick at the moment because he was rude to me yesterday. [the present continuous is used for an action which is in progress at the time of speaking]


Have you been waiting for us for a long time? [see the comment with the first sentence above]


I usually have a shower in the evening. [adverbs usually come before the main verb]


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Mike has already taken 50 photos today and it's only eleven o'clock in the morning.

Help me please! Is it correct? Is it present perfect?

Hello Svitlana1992,

Yes, that sentence is quite correct. It is an example of the present perfect describing an action which began in the past and has an unfinished time reference (today has not ended yet).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

If past perfect indicates the work completed action in the past then what about simple present. ?

For example: 1) I had gone to office. ( in past perfect )
2) I went to office ( in past simple)

As per the understanding both looks same.

Hello nareshk,

For completed actions in the past we use the past simple. In your examples, 'went' is correct.


We use the past perfect only when there is another point of reference in the past and we want to relate the action to this point of reference. We would not use the past perfect without this. Thus, your first example would not be correct as it stands; it would need some other time reference. For example, you might say:

I had gone to the office before she woke up. ['before she woke up' is the second time reference - another time in the past; the first action is before this and references it]


I had gone to the office early that morning. [part of a narrative in which all actions are in the past; the 'had gone' takes place in this past time frame before some subsequent event later in the past]


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
It is alright to say: I have had lunch. I have just had lunch.
Could I use this in past perfect? eg. I had had lunch. I had just had lunch.
or should I use another phrase? eg I was hungry.

Hello Andrew international,
Those are all correct.
All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could i have used " they were staying with us since last week" or when i use " since" it already applies to the perfect tenses??

Different subject : i think you're a teacher ( sorry , im new) you said somewhere that when we use " i would have ... ex liked" means that is not true. So if i want to say "why didnt you show me your work? i would have liked" is it wrong or does it mean im being false? Or was i nosy and misunderstood it all?

Thanks in advance