Uses of the past perfect continuous tense

The past perfect continuous is used for:

1. showing how long an event happened before another event
2. giving a reason for something

How to Make the Past Perfect Continuous

had been …ing

Examples of the past perfect continuous

1.
He had been waiting for an hour before she arrived.
They had been playing football for an hour when their mother called them in to dinner.

2.
He was angry because he had been waiting for an hour.
They were tired because they had been playing football for an hour.

Past Perfect Continuous vs. Past Continuous

If saying how long, people usually use past perfect continuous.
If not stating how long, people usually use the past continuous.

– examples

1. They had been living in America for 2 years before they learnt English.
It had been raining for an hour by the time she turned up.

2. They were living in America when they learnt English.
It was raining when she turned up.

Important notes: Stative Verbs

Like the present perfect continuous, stative verbs (know, have, own etc.) don’t take the continuous (except in special cases)

Examples

I had been having long hair for 2 years before I got it cut (not correct)
I had had long hair for 2 years before I got it cut (correct)

I had been knowing him for 3 years before we got married (not correct)
I had known him for 3 years before we got married (correct)

Exercises

1. Answer these questions using the past perfect continuous:
(i) How long have you been learning English?
(ii) How long have you been living in your current house?