A day ago Mary returned from a business trip. Today she is going out with her friend Jane who wants to ask her about the period of time she was on a business trip. "How long had you been there?"

Is the Past Perfect grammatically correct here? It denotes the period of time before Mary came back home.

  • 2
    Why do you need to use the past perfect in this sentence? We usually eschew the perfect in English unless it is indispensable to the meaning in context. If you were discussing with a colleague an event during a past visit to a distant location, after which something happened whose timing was critical to your narrative, he might ask: "How long had you been there?" Otherwise, we use the simple past. See Don't use the past perfect unless you need to.". Nov 19, 2016 at 8:00

1 Answer 1


The sentence is OK, but it will be more appropriate if you use the past simple as follows:

How long were you there?

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