Suppose you were a pilot for an airline for five years. But then you left the job. So if someone asks you "do you know how to fly a plane?" what would your answer be?

a) I have been a pilot for five years so i think i know how to fly a plane


b) I had been a pilot for five years so i think i know how to fly a plane.

As far as I know it should be "b" because he is not a pilot anymore and if I say "I have been a pilot", it can also mean that he is still a pilot. But I don't wanna say that because he isn't.

2 Answers 2


(a) would be used if the speaker was still a pilot.

If the speaker is no longer a pilot, I agree with Mick the expression should be "I was a pilot for five years..."

(b) by itself sounds incomplete. It is setting up a record of when something happened, so the speaker should finish by saying what happened. "I had been a pilot for 5 years when I decided to quit my job." "I had been a pilot for five years before my son was born." etc.

Note that leaving a specific job does not make someone cease to be a pilot - they are still a pilot so long as they have a pilot's license, even if they are not exercising that as their trade.

"I have been a pilot since the 60's, but I don't currently work for an airline."

  • So it means if i still have a pilot license then i would say "i have been a pilot for five years and if i don't have a license then "i was a pilot for five years". Sorry for bothering but i learnt that if something is happening for longer duration you usually use have/has+been or had+been but i am not so sure about using "was" for something which is happening for a long time and if it is used can you please provide a link to a website which shows more examples of it. Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 2:30
  • The two examples you state are correct. Use of "have been" vs. "was" is not about duration, it is about whether the action ended or is ongoing. Sorry I don't have any specific websites to point you to,
    – Kirt
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 8:44

In this case the imperfect was would possibly be a better fit.

I was a pilot for five years...

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