The Past Perfect Continuous is used to talk about an ongoing action that was taking place until another specified moment in the past.
The Past Perfect Continuous is normally used with the Past Simple to talk about an activity that was in progress before another action or event happened. In such statements the Past Simple denotes a specific point in time – the completed event in the past.
- The engine had been running for an hour before it stopped. (Past action in progress: The engine had been running. Other action in the past: It was 3:00.)
- It had been snowing for two hours before the roads were closed. (Past action in progress: It had been snowing. Other action in the past: Roads were closed.)
When to use Past Perfect Continuous
The Past Perfect Continuous is used to express the following.
Duration of a past action
The Past Perfect Continuous describes a repeated or continuing action that was taking place before that completed event.
- He had been studying (Past Perfect Continuous) French for two years before he went (Past Simple) to Paris.
- By the time Nick arrived (Past Simple) to the station, he had been walking for two hours.
Cause of an action
We can also use the Past Perfect Continuous to explain the cause of something in the past.
- My grades were great last semester because I had been studying every night.
- The plants died because we had actually been watering them too much.
How to form Past Perfect Continuous
To make the Past Perfect Continuous, we use:
had been + the “-ing” form of the verb (Present Participle)
|I had (’d) been fishing|
You’d been fishing
He/she/it’d been fishing
|We’d been fishing|
You’d been fishing
They’d been fishing
- Peter decided to buy a new car because his old one hadn’t been working for years.
- I went to see the doctor after I’d been feeling unwell for a few days.
Watch this video for understanding of Past Perfect Continuous tense: