1. What is 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 a past state
2. Past before past
It is important to remember that past perfect continuous sentences have two events:
1. Past Event 1 (past tense)
2. Past Event 2 (past continuous)
Past Event 2 leads to Past Event 1.
Past Event 2 is not finished (or is just finished) when Past Event 1 happens.
|Past event 2 (continuous)||Past event 1 (past)||Full sentence|
|I had been running for 30 minutes||it started to rain||I had been running for 30 minutes when it started to rain.|
|She had been working on the project for three months||the boss stopped it||She had been working on the project for three months before the boss stopped it.|
3. How to make the past perfect continuous tense
The past perfect continuous tense is:
had been …ing
To make past perfect continuous sentences, use:
1. had been …ing (+ duration) + past event
2. had been …ing (+ duration) + past state
*Duration is not always needed. However, it is very common.
|Past event 2 (had been …ing)||Duration||Past event 1||Full sentence|
|He had been waiting||for an hour||she arrived||He had been waiting for an hour before she arrived.|
|They had been playing football||for an hour||their mother called them in to dinner||They had been playing football for an hour when their mother called them in to dinner.|
|Past event 2 (had been …ing)||Duration||Past state||Full sentence|
|They had been playing football||for an hour||they were tired||They had been playing football for an hour so they were tired.|
|He had been waiting||for an hour||he was angry||He was angry because he had been waiting for an hour.|
4. Past perfect continuous vs. past continuous
The past continuous (was …ing) is more common than the past perfect continuous (had been …ing).
However, if saying how long an action happened, people usually use the past perfect continuous.
|Past perfect||Past perfect continuous|
|They were living in America when they learnt English.||They had been living in America for 2 years before they learnt English.|
|It was raining when she turned up.||It had been raining for an hour by the time she turned up.|
5. Important notes: stative verbs
Stative verbs are verbs that tell a true state.
They include know, have, own, and like.
Stative verbs do not generally take the continous tense.
Therefore they do not generally take the past perfect continuous tense (had been …ing). Instead, they generally use the past perfect (had + p.p.).
|I had known him for 3 years before we got married||I had been knowing him for 3 years before we got married.|
|I had had long hair for 2 years before I got it cut.||I had been having long hair for 2 years before I got it cut.|
- 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?