flesl.net grammar glossary::past perfect continuous (progressive)

past perfect continuous (also called: “past perfect progressive”)

The past perfect continuous is one of the eight basic verb “tenses” in English. It is a compound tense which is formed with the simple past of ‘have’ (‘had’); as a first auxiliary and the past participle of ‘be’ (‘been’) as a second auxiliary; the main verb is in the -‘ing’ form. In other words:

past perfect continuous =  had  +  been  +  -‘ing’ form

• The use of the past perfect continuous parallels the use of the present perfect continuous except that it is used to refer to a period of time that does not continue up to the present but which ends in the past. Here are some examples:

a. with a “stance” verb (e.g. “live,” “lie,”) to refer to a temporary state that continued up to some point in the past and, perhaps, beyond.

for example: Later, Sarah told Jill that Harry HAD BEEN SITTING by the window all afternoon.

b. with “durative” verbs to refer to an activity continuing up to some point in the past and, perhaps, beyond

for example: When Harry phoned, Jill told him she HAD BEEN CRYING for two hours.

c. with punctual verbs to refer to a series of repeated events continuing up to some point in the past and, perhaps, beyond

for example: When Harry got home, Sarah told him the neighbour’s dog HAD BEEN BARKING all day.

d. with punctual or durative verbs to explain the effects of some activity that continued up to a point in the past and, perhaps, beyond

for example: When Jack asked Jill why her eyes were red, she told him, she HAD BEEN PEELING onions.

• The above examples parallel the examples given in the entry for the present perfect continuous and the notes there and on the accompanying references and additional notes page should be consulted. (There is one note on the additional notes and references page for this page.)