I always heard people say things like

we worked yesterday until seven at night.

But working spans over a course of time, so I think this is much preferable:

We had worked yesterday until seven at night.

But will it be right if it is never "spoken"?

  • What do you mean by "idiomatic" ? Participles are not necessarily "idiomatic". This excuse of using the word "idiomatic" is getting out of hand. Feb 25, 2015 at 7:05
  • This had nothing to do with idioms; I suggested a title that I think describes the question better Feb 25, 2015 at 8:30
  • Why on earth would you think that a perfect construction would be better than an imperfect construction just because the verb “spans over a course of time”? Feb 25, 2015 at 23:30

3 Answers 3


"we have worked" is PRESENT perfect. "Yesterday" is entirely in the PAST. So no, you would not say "we have worked yesterday until seven at night."

You could use the past perfect, in the same situation; if you also say what happened next:

  • Yesterday, {because/after} we had worked until seven at night, we ordered some pizza.

(This puts the frame of reference in the past, so the oldest event is past perfect, and the more recent one is simple past.)

To express the ongoing nature of the work in the past, you could use past perfect progressive:

  • Yesterday, we had been working until seven at night, so we ordered pizza.

If you are describing a single night, you would always say "we worked," because the working is now over. It happened completely in the past.

If you are describing several nights, up to and including last night, then you would say "we have worked," because then the "working" is ongoing, in a nightly sense.

"Yesterday" always refers to one day only. Therefore the first version is right and the second is wrong.


When we specify precise information about a time of occurence for a single past event, or when we provide clear information about order, etc., with words like until, after, before, we generally use the simple past tense.

It is ok to use We were working until..., but not necessary and not as common as using the simple past tense.

We worked until 7pm last night.

The simple past tense is also our best choice when we are telling a story about the past. In particular, if we are using the verb to describe thinhs that happened in a series or chronology:

I watched TV until 8pm last night. Then I ate a snack, wrote some emails, and went to bed.

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