PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE in detail

The Past Perfect continuous tense use in English
The Past Perfect continuous tense use in English

The Past Perfect Continuous tense is used to talk about an ongoing action in the past before a particular time in the past.

In this lesson, we learn when to use the Past Perfect Continuous tense and how to form sentences in it.

The Past Perfect Continuous tense definition

We use the Past Perfect Continuous tense to talk about an action that started in the past, continued for some time, and stopped before a particular time in the past.

Structure: subject + had been + V1+ing + time reference

Time reference:

  • Use FOR to talk about the time duration of the action.
  • And use SINCE to talk about the starting point of the action.

Examples:

  • We had been waiting there for 2 hours before the bus arrived.

    (We started waiting in the past at some point in time and kept waiting for 2 hours. This action stopped before a particular time: the arrival of the bus)
  • She had been studying English since the morning when I called.

    (This action of studying started in the past at a particular time (the morning) and kept going on until a particular time: me calling)

More examples:

  • Jyoti had been singing for hours.
  • He had been working on his laptop for some hours.
  • We had been chatting since the morning.
  • My friends had been fighting for me.
  • I had been playing Cricket for 5 years before I joined the college.
  • We had been sitting in the seminar hall for some hours.
  • Jon had been working out with Mike on his wrestling for a long time.
  • My team had been planning something for my birthday.
  • I hadn’t been doing anything.
  • Had you been helping her?

NOTE: it’s optional to mention the time duration or the starting point of the action. Whether you do it or not, it is understood that the action had been going on for some time.

Also note that if the time before the action stopped in the past hasn’t been mentioned, understand that it is already understood by the reader or the listener.

Affirmative sentences

Subjectauxiliary verb (had been) main verb (V1+ing)
I had beenstudying
Theyhad beenwaiting
The Past Perfect Continuous tense affirmative sentence

Negative sentences

Subjectauxiliary verb + notbeen main verb (V1+ing)
I had notbeenstudying
Theyhad notbeenwaiting
The Past Perfect Continuous tense negative sentence

Interrogative sentences

Auxiliary verb (HAD)subjectbeen main verb (V1+ing)?
HadIbeenstudying?
Hadthey beenwaiting?
The Past Perfect Continuous tense interrogative sentence

Interrogative negative sentences

Auxiliary verb (HAD)subjectnotbeen main verb (V1+ing)?
HadInotbeenstudying?
HadTheynotnotwaiting?
The Past Perfect Continuous tense interrogative negative sentence

NOTE: we can contract the auxiliary verb(HAD) and NOT too.

Hadn’tsubjectbeen main verb (V1+ing)?
Hadn’tIbeenstudying?
Hadn’ttheybeenwaiting?
The Past Perfect Continuous tense interrogative negative sentence

If you want to use the question words (what, why, where, when, how) in the interrogative sentence, use it before the auxiliary verb.

Examples:

  • Where had they been studying before I got home?
  • Why had she been living with him?
  • What had you been doing there?
  • How you had been doing it so well?
  • Since when had he been training for an MMA fight?
  • For how long had he been running that business?

NOTE: In spoken English, we generally contract the subject and the auxiliary verb(HAD) in affirmative and negative sentences.

I hadI’d
We hadwe’d
He hadhe’d
She hadshe’d
They hadthey’d
You hadyou’d
It hadit’d
Contractions in the Past Perfect Continuous tense

Note that when these pronouns are contracted with WOULD, they look the same. But the trick to find out the difference is to look at the verb that follows them.

Contractions using HAD are followed by a past participle(V3) or (been + V3/been + V1+ing), and the contractions using WOULD are followed by a base form of a verb (V1) or the stative verb (BE).

  • I’d call you. (I would call you.)
  • You’d be a great teacher. (You would be a great teacher.)
  • He’d look after you. (He would look after you.)
  • I’d called you. (I had called you.)
  • I’d been called before. (I had been called before.)
  • I’d been doing it. (I had been doing it.)
  • He’d been studying. (He had been studying.)

Stative verbs in progressive tenses

A stative verb is a type of a main verb that shows the state of the subject; it does not show a dynamic action, and that is why it is advised not to use stative verbs in continuous tenses.

Common stative verbs: love, hate, understand, prefer, need, want, mind, hear, recognize, deserve, loathe, belong, fit, weigh, consist, suppose, appear, doubt, satisfy, involve, please, etc.

Examples:

  • I am loving you. ❌
  • I love you. ✔️
  • I am hating you. ❌
  • I hate you. ✔️

Hope you enjoyed the class, learners! See you in the next class. Until the, keep learning, and keep sharing your knowledge with others.

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