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Where should we use "has/have been" and "had been"? What is the difference between them?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both forms express perfect aspect, that is to say they express a state resulting from an earlier event. The has/have been form is known as the present perfect and relates what has happened in the past to what is happening now. The had been form is known as the past perfect and pushes the events further back. It relates what happened at some time in the past to the situation at some other time in the past. If I say I have been at work for eight hours, I describe the position now. If I say I had been at work for eight hours, I describe the position as it was at some earlier time.

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can you explain via any example? – Swati Singh Oct 4 '11 at 11:28
I thought I'd given one! – Barrie England Oct 4 '11 at 12:49
I can perhaps add that the sentence "I had been at work for eight hours" is very unlikely to be said unless a past time focus has already been established in the discourse. So if it follows something like "Something strange happened to me yesterday" it would be normal, as would "I had been at work for eight hours when ... ". But the sentence "I had been at work for eight hours." is unlikely to start a conversation. – Colin Fine Oct 4 '11 at 13:11
It might start a novel, though! – Barrie England Oct 4 '11 at 14:43

protected by RegDwigнt Sep 16 '12 at 17:07

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