Languages › English as a Second Language Guide to Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous for ESL Share Flipboard Email Print Nicola Dongo/EyeEm/Getty Images English as a Second Language Grammar Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Writing Skills Reading Comprehension Business English Resources for Teachers By Kenneth Beare English as a Second Language (ESL) Expert TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music Kenneth Beare is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and course developer with over three decades of teaching experience. our editorial process Kenneth Beare Updated March 08, 2019 The two most advanced tenses in the past are the past perfect and past perfect continuous. There are slight differences between these two tenses, but both are used to speak about actions that occur before another point in time in the past. Intermediate level English learners can study the basic structures below, and then use the activities provided below. Teachers can print out and use materials in-class to help students acquire these two complicated tenses. There are also a number of lessons referenced below that focus on comprehension materials for both of these tenses. Finally, teachers can get ideas and tips from these guides to teaching the past perfect and past perfect continuous. Past Perfect There are two past tenses used to describe things that happen before another point in time in the past. Use the past perfect to talk about an event which had happened at some point in time before something took place. Tom had interviewed five times before he got his first job.She had already eaten by the time they arrived. Past Perfect Continuous The past perfect continuous is used to express how long something had been going on before something important happened in the past. Jane had been studying for four hours when he came home.Jack had been driving four over six hours when he finally pulled over to have lunch. Past Perfect Structure Positive Subject + had + past participle I, You, He, She, We, They had finished before I arrived. Negative Subject + had + not (hadn't) + past participle I, You, He, She, We, They hadn't eaten before he finished the job. Questions Question word + had + subject + past participle What -> had he, she, you, we, they thought before I asked the question? Past Perfect Continuous Structure Positive Subject + had + been + verb + ing I, You, He, She, We, They had been working for two hours when she telephoned. Negative Subject + had + not (hadn't) + been + verb + ing I, You, He, She, We, They hadn't been paying attention for long when he asked the question. Questions Question word (often 'How long') + had + been + subject + verb + ing How long -> had he, she, you, we, they been working before he arrived? Study the Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous in Depth Here are detailed guides to the past perfect and the past perfect continuous tenses. Each guide provides situations, common time expressions used with the tense, as well as examples. This guide is for choosing between using simple perfect forms or continuous perfect forms (present perfect, past perfect, future perfect vs present perfect continuous, past perfect continuous, future perfect continuous) is perfect for advanced level students looking to understand the fine points of these tenses. The past unreal (3rd) conditional also uses the past perfect form. Test Your Knowledge of Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous Once you've studied the rules - or if you already know the rules - test your knowledge with a past forms review or conditional forms quiz. Teach a Lesson about the Past Simple and Past Continuous Here are lessons on the site which have elements of the lesson which focus on the past perfect simple or past perfect continuous and their use with other tenses. Tense Identification Review - Integration Lesson for Upper-Level StudentsA Difficult Situation - Using Modal Verbs of Probability in the PastMultinationals - Help or Hindrance? - use of past perfect/continuous to in debate lessons to provide contextGuilty! - communication lesson using a variety of past tensesSentence Auctions - students try to decide whether a sentence is a genuine masterpiece worth buying, includes examples of past perfect. Activities with the Past Perfect Simple and Past Perfect Continuous Some activities that will help you practice: Waiting for a Friend - Advanced past and future forms (future continuous, 3rd conditional, etc.)English Tenses Timeline Chart - study how the past perfect and past perfect continuous relate to other tenses on a timeline.