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.


(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. – kuldeep sharma Oct 17 '17 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 Oct 18 '17 at 8:44

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

I was a pilot for five years...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.