Please help me to understand questions using * had been* at the start. If i want to as question about past the can i ask this way? I am aware about uses of were and was that it use to ask about status of past. Below sentences are in perfect tense give clear picture of time. Past time before any other thing happen.

Had you been to Australia?
Had she been upset?
Had you been to school?
Had you been hospitalized?
Had he been arrested by police?

If above sentences are incorrect the how below sentence are correct when we ask about present tense.

Have you been to Australia?
Has she been upset?
Have you been to school?
Have you been hospitalized?
Has he been arrested by police?

  • Who told that those sentences with past tense are incorrect?Try converting those interrogative sentences into assertive sentences. Do they make sense? Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 13:38

3 Answers 3


Both sets of sentences are correct, the difference between them is the meaning.

Now this difference is a little hard to explain, but I will do my best.

The verb 'to have' conjugates in the present as 'have' or 'has':

  • I, you, we, they, you all = Have
  • he, she, it = Has

In the past, it conjugates as 'had' for everyone.

Now when it comes to questions starting with 'to have', asking if someone has done something, they are asking about one of two situations, each with it's own meaning.

When you use 'had' (past tense), then you are asking about any time up to a specific moment in the past.

Had you run a marathon?

Meaning "At any time up until that moment in the past, did you run a marathon?", or "Did you run a marathon by then?"

When you use 'have' or 'have', you're asking about any moment up until right now.

Have you run a marathon?

Meaning "At any time up until now, did you run a marathon?", or "Did you run a marathon by now?"

The difference between the two is the limit of the time asked about. When you ask using the past tense of 'to have', then the limit is referring to a specific moment in the past. When you ask using the present tense of 'to have', then the limit is this very moment, now.

  • Have, has = "up until now"
  • Had = "up until then"

I hope that helps!


This is a question of Present Perfect Tense and Past Perfect Tense. I am not going to write anything about these two tenses except for briefly touching the constructions of these two tenses.

"Have/Has + past-participles-of-verb" - Present Perfect Tense

"Had + past-participles-of-verb" - Past Perfect Tense.

Have you been to London?

This is an interrogative sentence. The assertive form of this is

You have been to London.

The tense of this sentence is Present Perfect. Here the construction also follows the tense rule I have mentioned against Perfect Tense.

Subject (you) + have + past-participles-of-verb (been) + Object (to London)

Note - Been is used as the past participle of go when somebody has gone somewhere and come back.

If you understand this answer, the sentence with "had", I think, is self-explanatory. Please let me know if you still have any question regarding this.


The Had you been versions are what are referred to as the past perfect continuous.

This implies an activity that started and ended in the past. Also, the correct form would be For example,

"How long had you been to school"

Indicates that the person is no longer at school, and the other person is asking as to how long was the person in school, in the past. This indicates that the action being in school started and ended in the past.

The Have you been versions are referred to as the present perfect continuous.

These are actions that started in the past, and have continued till now. Once again, the correct form would be

"Have you been hospitalized"

is asking the person in the present, whether (s)he has been admitted to a hospital in the past. Thus, the action being in hospital started in the past, but is still in progress.

  • That is not exactly correct. Asking "have you" questions don't ask if they still are doing that thing. It doesn't make sense. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 15:25
  • Danegraphics - yes... "Have you been cooking for the past 3 hours?"... "have you been sleeping all this time?" Are examples where the action started in the past and is still in progress. @Man_From_India - Have you ever been hospitalized would mean that the asker is asking if the person was ever in a hospital. But suppose I call up and say "I've been in an accident", the right response is "Are you OK, have you been hospitalized?"
    – Stark07
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 5:40

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