Past Perfect Continuous

We use the Past Perfect Continuous to talk about repeated or ongoing actions happening before another event in the past, and to describe events leading up to a story. If you would like to learn more about this tense, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to look around, learn, and practice.

past perfect continuous

We use the Past Perfect Continuous to talk about:

- REPEATED OR CONTINUING ACTIONS HAPPENING BEFORE ANOTHER EVENT IN THE PAST

Patrick had been working for the company for three years before he got promoted.

Edward hadn’t been sleeping when you called, he was on the computer.

Had Stacey and Rob been seeing each other long before they broke up?

- EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE BEGINNING OF A STORY

I had been living at my aunt’s house when I met Jennette.

We hadn’t been walking for an hour when it started to rain.

* NOTE: We can usually use Past Perfect Continuous with Past Simple to say that one action was in progress before another in the past.


Oscar had been watching when the doorbell rang.

(first Oscar was watching then the doorbell rang)

* NOTE: We can use Past Perfect Continuous(Nick had been buying) to focus more on the action
and we can use Past Perfect Simple (Nick had bought) to focus more on the result.

Compare the following:
Nick had been buying property in London a year before we moved there.
(Nick bought several properties)


Nick had bought property in London a year before we moved there.
(Nick bought a property)

Affirmative
I/you/we/they/he/she/it had been/’d been reading/living/doing etc .
Negative
I/you/we/they/he/she/it had not been/ hadn’t/’d not been reading/living/doing etc .
Questions
Had I/you/we/they/he/she/it been reading/living/doing etc ?

* NOTE: Negative questions are also possible. We generally use them to show surprise,
disbelief, or shock.

Had’t Marek been living in the UK long before he went came back to Poland?

* NOTE: We often use for and since with perfect tenses to specify the duration of the time.

For Present Perfect Simple exercises go to: