Can you tell me which form of the following sentences is the correct one please?

Imagine two friends discussing the gym...

I was in a good shape before

I assume that it's not correct because simple past is used for a finished action in the past, at a specific time. And being in a good shape it's not an action..

I have been in a good shape before

This sounds ok to me, because it's "change over time".

I had been in a good shape before (I broke my leg)

If it would have had a simple past at the end I believe this would have been the correct form.

I think this is what the theory says, but I've seen for many times people using past perfect without specifying a simple past and I don't understand whether it is correct or not.

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming that the intended meaning of these sentences is that the speaker was in good shape at some point in the past. (By the way, it's more common to say "in good shape" than "in a good shape" in American English.)

The first sentence is fine. The speaker was in good shape in the past and may or may not be in good shape now (depending on the context). If the speaker is not in good shape now, you could also say "I used to be in good shape." The speaker's being in good shape is something that happened in the past, even though "being" doesn't seem like an action.

The second sentence is also fine. As with the first sentence, the speaker was in good shape in the past and may or may not be in good shape now. There's a slightly different implication with this sentence: it could mean that the speaker has been in good shape at several different times in the past.

The third sentence is also OK but you would only use "had been" if you're saying that the speaker was in good shape before some other event occurred in the past, so it's acceptable if you follow it with something like "I broke my leg." You're probably more likely to see "was" used in this situation, though (i.e., "I was in good shape before I broke my leg.").

  • And if we don't use "I broke my leg", which is the best option to mention that you were in a good shape in the past, but not at a specific moment or before another event occured. And if you would not use none of these three how would you say that, "I used to be"?
    – Mike
    Mar 13, 2016 at 8:13
  • If you weren't following it with something else, you'd use used to be. "I used to be in good shape." saying "I was in good shape" would usually cause a native speaker to assume you were going to follow it with something that caused that to no longer be the case. Mar 13, 2016 at 9:45

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