Upper-intermediate grammar exercise: past perfect simple vs. past perfect continuous

English grammar practice exercise, upper-intermediate / advanced level.

This exercise focuses on the difference between the past perfect simple and past perfect continuous.

Structure of past perfect simple
positive negative question
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
had gone.
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
hadn’t gone.
Had
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
gone?
Structure of past perfect continuous
positive negative question
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
had been going.
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
hadn’t been going.
Had
I / you / he / she / it / we / they
been going?

Exercise instructions

Complete the sentences below by putting the verb in brackets into the past perfect simple or past perfect continuous:

questions go herescore goes here


Past perfect simple – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I didn't been to London. I hadn't been to London. We use the helping verb had (negative = hadn't) in the past perfect.
When I saw him, I noticed that he had a haircut. When I saw him I noticed that he had had a haircut. The action (a haircut) happened before the other past action (I noticed). We use the past perfect for the action which happened first to make the time order clear to the listener.
He told me has been to London. He told me he had been to London. His original words were: ''I have been to London.'' However, in reported speech we move the tense back – the present perfect (have been) becomes past perfect (had been).
Past perfect continuous – common mistakes
Common mistakes Correct version Why?
I had working hard, so I felt very tired.
I had been worked hard, so I felt very tired.
I had been working hard, so I felt very tired. The form of the past perfect continuous is had + been + verb (-ing).
I had been hearing the song many times before. I had heard the song many times before. Some verbs (called stative verbs) are not normally used in the continuous form, e.g. know, like, understand, believe, hear, etc.