Past Perfect Continuous in English

Revisado porKateryna Protsenko / más sobre Proceso editorial
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In this reference, we will discuss the past perfect continuous tense, its structure, and its uses. We will also provide examples of past perfect continuous in sentences and discuss the difference between it and other tenses. You'll get a handy summary of everything you need to learn about the past perfect continuous!

What is the past perfect continuous tense?

The past perfect continuous helps us describe actions that started in the past and kept going up to some other past point in time. It is used to express how long an action was happening for and how it was completed in the past. We created it out of two parts - the past perfect verb and the present participle. The past perfect verb is an auxiliary verb, such as "had," and the present participle is the "-ing" form of the verb.

The past perfect continuous is used to make a connection between two past events. For example, if you say "I had been studying for two hours before I went to bed," you are expressing that you were in the middle of studying for two hours when you went to bed.

Structure of the past perfect continuous

The structure of the past perfect continuous is quite simple. It is composed of two parts, the past perfect verb "had" and the present participle "-ing" form of the verb.

The structure of the past perfect continuous is as follows:

Subject + had + been + verb (present participle) + object/complement

For example, "I had been studying" or "She had been running".

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Uses of the past perfect continuous tense

The past perfect continuous is used to:

  1. Express how long an action was happening for and how it was completed in the past. For example, "I had been studying for two hours before I got tired."
  2. Show actions that started in the past and continued up to another point in time in the past. For example, "I had been studying for two hours before I went to bed."
  3. Show that an action was happening when something else happened. For example, "I had been studying for two hours when my mom came home" or "He had been running for an hour when he got tired."
  4. Describe actions that happened before a certain point in the past. For example, "He had been studying for three hours before he went to bed" or "I had been running for an hour before I stopped."
  5. Describe habitual actions in the past. For example, "I had been studying every day for a year before I took the exam" or "She had been running every morning for two weeks before she got injured."

Examples of past perfect continuous in sentences

Here are some examples of the past perfect continuous in sentences:

  • "I had been studying for two hours when my mom came home."
  • "She had been running for an hour when she got tired."
  • "He had been studying for three hours before he went to bed."
  • "I had been running for an hour before I stopped."
  • "I had been studying every day for a year before I took the exam."
  • "She had been running every morning for two weeks before she got injured."

Here are some more complex sentences:

  • "I had been studying for my upcoming exams for the past three days when I finally finished all the material."
  • "He had been writing his novel for two years before he published it."
  • "She had been jogging every morning for a month before she decided to start running instead."
  • "They had been working hard on their project for two weeks before they presented it to their teacher." 
    Past Perfect Continuous in English 
     

Difference between the past perfect and past perfect continuous

Past perfect and past perfect continuous are both verb tenses used to express actions that happened in the past. However, there is a key difference between the two tenses.

The past perfect helps talk about something that happened before a certain point in the past, whereas the past perfect continuous is used to talk about something that was happening for a certain period of time before a point in the past.

For example, "I had finished my work before supper" (past perfect) and "I had been studying for two hours before dinner" (past perfect continuous).

Summary

The key to mastering the past perfect continuous is practice. The more you use it, the easier you will master this tense. Always remember the structure:

Subject + had + been + verb (present participle) + object/complement

With time and effort, you'll learn to use the past perfect continuous formula with ease!

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Comentarios

Callum KnightNov 2nd, 2023
I've been struggling with this tense for a while, but now it's crystal clear. Thanks for the helpful article