Easy Learning

The past perfect continuous tense - Easy Learning Grammar

Typical forms of this tense are as shown in:
  • I had been waiting.
  • I’d been waiting.
  • She had been waiting.
  • She’d been waiting.
  • Had I been talking nonsense? What had I said?
  • Had he been waiting long?
  • Had you been expecting to meet Mary at the station?
  • I had not been waiting.
  • She had not been waiting.
  • They hadn’t been looking very carefully.
The past perfect continuous tense is used to talk about an action which began before another action in the past and either:
  • continued up to the time of the second action,
  • I hadn’t been waiting long when a lorry drew up beside me.
  • or was completed before the second action happened.
  • I had been studying and decided to take a stroll to clear my mind.
  • We had been cleaning the car for hours, so we stopped and had a drink.
  • The past perfect continuous is often used in the main clause of a complex sentence, to set the scene for an event.
  • I had been driving for about an hour when I heard a noise in the engine.
  • The past perfect continuous is often used to talk about a repeated action.
  • She had been trying to telephone her mother all day.
Remember that you cannot use the past perfect continuous with verbs such as like, which are not used in the continuous. See The present continuous tense and Form of adverbs.

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