PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
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The Meaning of Past Perfect Continuous Tense
The past perfect continuous is a verb tense which is used to show that an action started in the past and continued up to another point in the past.
Past Perfect Continuous Tense (past perfect progressive tense) represents an ongoing action that started and continued for some time in the past.
The past perfect continuous tense shows that an action that started in the past continued up until another time in the past.
The Past Perfect Continuous is another tense that expresses the "past in the past".
Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used to express the action that started in the past and continued in the past for some time.
The past perfect continuous corresponds to the present perfect continuous, but with reference to a time earlier than 'before now'.
The past perfect continuous tense is constructed using had been + the verb’s present participle (root + -ing).
Past Perfect Continuous Forms
The past perfect continuous is formed using had + been + present participle. Questions are indicated by inverting the subject and had. Negatives are made with not
- Statement: You had been waiting there for more than two hours when she finally arrived.
- Question: Had you been waiting there for more than two hours when she finally arrived?
- Negative: You had not been waiting there for more than two hours when she finally arrived.
How do we make the Past Perfect Continuous tense?
The structure of the Past Perfect Continuous tense is:
|subject||+||auxiliary have||+||auxiliary be||+||main verb|
|conjugated in Past Simple||past participle|
The first auxiliary verb (have) is conjugated in the Past Simple, invariable: had
The second auxiliary verb (be) is invariable in past participle form: been
The main verb is invariable in present participle form: -ing
For negative sentences we insert not after the first auxiliary verb.
For question sentences, we exchange the subject and the first auxiliary verb.
Look at these example sentences with the Past Perfect Continuous tense:
|subject||auxiliary verb||auxiliary verb||main verb|
Contraction with Past Perfect Continuous
When we use the Past Perfect Continuous in speaking, we often contract the subject and the first auxiliary verb. We also sometimes do this in informal writing.
|I had been||I’d been|
|you had been||you’d been|
|he had been|
she had been
it had been
|we had been||we’d been|
|they had been||they’d been|
- He’d been drinking all day.
- It’d been pouring with rain.
In negative sentences, we may contract the first auxiliary verb and “not”:
- We hadn’t been living there long.
- They hadn’t been studying very hard.
How do we use the Past Perfect Continuous tense?
The Past Perfect Continuous tense is like the Past Perfect tense, but it expresses longer actions in the past before another action in the past. For example:
- Ram started waiting at 9am. I arrived at 11am. When I arrived, Ram had been waiting for two hours.
|Ram starts waiting in past at 9am.|
|I arrive in past at 11am.|
|Ram had been waiting for two hours when I arrived.|
Here are some more examples:
John was very tired. He had been running.
I could smell cigarettes. Somebody had been smoking.
Suddenly, my car broke down. I was not surprised. It had not been running well for a long time.
Had the pilot been drinking before the crash?
You can sometimes think of the Past Perfect Continuous tense like the Present Perfect Continuous tense, but instead of the time being now the time is before.
MORE ISSUES ON PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
Past Perfect Continuous Uses
USE 1 Duration Before Something in the Past
We use the past perfect continuous to show that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past. For five minutes and for two weeks are both durations which can be used with the past perfect continuous. Notice that this is related to the present perfect continuous; however, the duration does not continue until now, it stops before something else in the past.
- They had been talking for over an hour before Tony arrived.
- She had been working at that company for three years when it went out of business.
- How long had you been waiting to get on the bus?
- Mike wanted to sit down because he had been standing all day at work.
- James had been teaching at the university for more than a year before he left for Asia.
- A: How long had you been studying Turkish before you moved to Ankara?
B: I had not been studying Turkish very long.
USE 2 Cause of Something in the Past
Using the past perfect continuous before another action in the past is a good way to show cause and effect.
- Jason was tired because he had been jogging.
- Sam gained weight because he had been overeating.
- Betty failed the final test because she had not been attending class
Past Continuous vs. Past Perfect Continuous
If you do not include a duration such as for five minutes, for two weeks, or since Friday, many English speakers choose to use the past continuous rather than the past perfect continuous. Be careful because this can change the meaning of the sentence. Past continuous emphasizes interrupted actions, whereas past perfect continuous emphasizes a duration of time before something in the past. Study the examples below to understand the difference.
- He was tired because he was exercising so hard.
This sentence emphasizes that he was tired because he was exercising at that exact moment.
- He was tired because he had been exercising so hard.
This sentence emphasizes that he was tired because he had been exercising over a period of time. It is possible that he was still exercising at that moment OR that he had just finished.
REMEMBER Non-Continuous Verbs / Mixed Verbs
It is important to remember that Non-continuous verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also, certain non-continuous meanings for mixed verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. Instead of using past perfect continuous with these verbs, you must use past perfect.
- The motorcycle had been belonging to George for years before Tina bought it. Not Correct
- The motorcycle had belonged to George for years before Tina bought it. Correct
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
- You had only been waiting there for a few minutes when she arrived.
- Had you only been waiting there for a few minutes when she arrived?
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
- Chef Jones had been preparing the restaurant's fantastic dinners for two years before he moved to Paris. Active
- The restaurant's fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones for two years before he moved to Paris. Passive
NOTE: Passive forms of the past perfect continuous are not common.
Other Examples of Past Perfect Continuous Tense
- I had been writing articles on various topics for three hours.
- He had been reading different kinds of books since morning.
- They had been playing football in that field before it started to rain.
- Jane had been gossiping in the coffee shop for two hours.
- Jeff had been studying in the library before he came to the class.
- We had been shopping in that shop before we came home.
- We had been watching a movie in this Cineplex for three hours.
- You had been shopping in that market before you came home.
- I had been singing different kinds of songs for an hour.
- I had been listening to melodious songs for two hours.
- Tom had been traveling around the world since the month of December.
- They had been playing hockey on that field for three hours.
- The poet had been writing romantic poems since morning.
- The lyricist had been writing realistic songs since the beginning of his career.
- Had you not been enjoying the concert for three hours?
- I had not been watching the cricket match on television for two hours.
- Richard had been practicing to sing the song since morning.
- I had been helping him to do the task before I started the program.
- We had been enjoying the program thoroughly for three hours.
- I had been shopping with my elder brother in the fair since morning.
Watch the following Videos:
QUIZ - Past Perfect Continuous Tense
You can do this grammar quiz. It tests what you learned on the Past Perfect Continuous page.