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.

Exercise

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Comments

I was pleased to meet George. I hadn’t met him before, even though I had met his wife several times.

my question is "i was pleased to meet george" why use present tense instead of past tense. (meet instead of met)

Hi, I have something to clarify.

This is from Straits Times.

"Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay said Mr Lai had not been specifically instructed to clean the glass panels as he was "old and walks with a limp". But he has insisted many times on doing it despite being advised otherwise.

The temple's operations manager, Mr Liu Khee Fang, had been especially concerned because Mr Lai would anchor one leg against the glass surface and stand with only one leg on the ladder."

Why was past perfect used in each time?

Please help. I don't understand why. It doesn't follow this "for something that started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past"

Hello Phantomaxe,

In general, the past perfect is used to refer to a past action that occurred before some other reference point in the past, and so can be used in many different ways - not just 'for something that started in the past and continued up to a given time'.

The past perfect is very common in reports like this one - the article is reporting what the coroner said yesterday (this is the reference point in the past), and what the coroner said yesterday is a report about an earlier past event (the incident with Mr Lai). The other uses of the past perfect appear to follow from the past reference point of what the coroner said yesterday.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Good Morning!
I wanted to know if there is any difference in meaning between these two sentences - "When he heard the news, he fainted." and "When he had heard the news, he fainted."

Hello prapsahu,

The first one can be used in a wider variety of contexts than the second one, as the use of the past perfect refers to some other past point in time. That past point in time would have to be clear from the context. Otherwise, these two sentences mean the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have a question regarding these examples:
• 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.

If Past Perfect is always used to indicate an action that happened before another past action, why actions that happened before (here "since I left school" and "since it started") are in Past Simple even though they happened before the actions in Past Perfect ("had worked" and "had been watching")? I understand, that in these examples we have other actions in Past Simple ("I was sorry" and "I missed") that require Past Perfect, but why we use Past Simple after "since" in not clear. Are there any special rules for the use of "since", why isn't it "since I had left school" and "since it had started"? I couldn't find any information about that.

Sorry to bother you, if this is just some misunderstanding of mine,
Yulia

Hi Yulia,

This is a tricky area and I can understand why it seems confusing. There is some information on this on our page on the past perfect which might be helpful.

In most cases, both the past simple and the past perfect are possible. The reason why the past simple is possible is that the past perfect is used not to indicate that one action was before another, but to show a connection between two events in the past, just as the present perfect shows a connection between the past and the present. For example:

I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there since I left school.

Here the past perfect is used because 'had worked' is related to 'was sorry' - the reason for the speaker's sorry is that they had worked there. The information about leaving school is not directly related to the speaker's feelings.

Similiarly, in your other example the connected events are 'had been watching' and 'missed', because it is the act of missing an episode that ends the former sequence of watching every week.

In both these examples it would not be incorrect to use the past perfect, as you say. However, the past simple is more likely because the events in the past simple do not really have any connection with the other actions; they are simply time references.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It can be got done or it can get done.it occurs me that both are same.

Hello DilanS,

No, the first form is not correct in standard English, and might even be confusing in non-standard English. The second one is fine.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,

Could you please explain why I can't use "offered" in stead of "had offered" in the sentence below? Is that because the fact that David got t he job was important at the moment of speaking, hence perfect tense must be used?

Everything in Julie's life had been going well until her world fell apart just a month before. A large company had offered David an important position that would require him to move to France.

Also am I correct in understanding that when we tell a story, we have to change every tenses from present to past? ( I.e. simple present to simple past, present perfect to past perfect, and so on) Thanks

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