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English > Tenses > Past Perfect Continuous Tense
Tenses

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

We often make use of the past perfect continuous tense in our daily lives. But, sometimes, we end up using it incorrectly. This tense is basically one that expresses the ‘past in the past’. Thus, through this article, you will get to learn about the structure and use of the Past Perfect Continuous tense. It will help in learning about it in detail and in an easy manner. Further on, you will get questions to solve so as to check your understanding of this tense.

past perfect continuous tense

Definition of Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The past perfect continuous tense refers to a verb tense that we use to express that an action that began in the past and continued up to another point in the past. It is also referred to as the past perfect progressive.

We construct the past perfect continuous tense by making use of:

had been + the verb’s present participle (root + -ing)

The past perfect continuous tense is not like the present perfect continuous that expresses an action that started in the past and kept continuing until the present. Instead, the past perfect continuous tense denotes an action that started in the past, continued in the past, and also ended at a certain point in the past.

Example:

  • He had been eating cereal out of the box when Dad walked into the room.
  • I had been working at the restaurant for two years when I got the promotion.

Thus, you see that the word when, for, since, and before are often used alongside the past perfect continuous tense.

Examples:

  • Jimin had been running five miles a day before he twisted his ankle.
  • The employee that was terminated had been performing well since the last month.
  • Linda had been learning ballet for 2 years when she finally asked to perform at the annual program.
  • They had been playing music non-stop for ten minutes before he finally came out of the room to meet them.

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Forms of Past Perfect Continuous Tense

We form the past perfect continuous tense by making use of:

Had +been +present participle

For indicating questions, we invert the subject and had. For making negatives, we use not. For instance:

Statement: You had been waiting there for more than twenty minutes when he finally arrived.

Question: Had you been waiting there for more than twenty minutes when he finally arrived?

Negative: You had not been waiting there for more than twenty minutes when he finally arrived.

Uses of Past Perfect Continuous

To understand how to incorporate the past perfect continuous tense in our daily lives, we must learn about its uses.

Duration Before Something in the Past

We make use of the past perfect continuous tense for indicating that something began in the past and continued up until another time in the past. “For ten minutes” and “for six weeks” are both durations that we can use with the past perfect continuous. You will see that this is related to the present perfect continuous. But,  the duration does not continue until now, it will stop before something else in the past.

Examples:

  • She had been dancing for over an hour before Sam arrived.
  • He had been working at that NGO for two years when it got shut down.
  • How long had you been playing to get on the team?
  • Kat wanted to take a rest because she had been driving all day on road.
  • Ellen had been teaching at the school for more than a month before she left for London.
  • A: How long had you been studying Korean before you move to Seoul?
  • B: I had not been studying Korean very long.

Cause of Something in the Past

Another fine way to indicate show and effect is of making use of the past perfect continuous before another action in the past.

Examples:

  • Seri was exhausted because she had been dancing.
  • Zubi felt refreshed because she had been sleeping.
  • Jo failed the final exam because she had not been attending class.

Past Continuous vs. Past Perfect Continuous

If we do not include a duration such as “for ten minutes,” “for three weeks” or “since Thursday,” many English speakers prefer to use the past continuous instead of the past perfect continuous.

You must take extra care as it may change the meaning of the sentence. Past continuous lays emphasis on the interrupted actions, whereas past perfect continuous lays emphasis on a duration of time before something in the past. The examples given below can help you understand the difference:

Examples:

  • She was tired because she was exercising so hard.
    It emphasizes that she was tired as she was exercising at that exact moment.
  • She was tired because she had been exercising so hard.
    It emphasizes that she was tired because she had been exercising over a period of time. There is also a possibility that she was still exercising at that moment OR that she had just finished.

Non-Continuous Verbs / Mixed Verbs

We must keep in mind that we cannot use non-continuous verbs in any continuous tenses. In addition, we cannot use some non-continuous meanings for mixed verbs in continuous tenses. Rather than making use of past perfect continuous with these verbs, we prefer using past perfect.

Examples:

Incorrect: The car had been belonging to Jessie for years before Tess bought it.

Correct: The car had belonged to Jessie for years before Tess bought it.

Placement of Adverbs

We bring you some examples for showing that the placement for grammar adverbs like always, only, just, ever, still, and more. For instance:

She had only been waiting there for a few hours when he arrived.

Had she only been waiting there for a few hours when he arrived?

FAQ on Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Question 1: We were surprised to see him. ________ been expecting him.

  1. We are
  2. We have
  3. We’d not

Answer 1: Option c- We’d not.

Question 2: I just heard about the car crash. ________ been working all night?

  1. Had the driver
  2. Had the driving
  3. Have the driver

Answer 2: Option a- Had the driver.

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Edwin

What is the present perfect form of “He does not smoke”?
What is the difference between “He does not have to smoke” and “He has not smoked”?

Ksk
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