Past Perfect Continuous: Negative & Questions

The Past Perfect Continuous is used to talk about an ongoing action that was taking place until another specified moment in the past.

Negative sentences

To make negative statements in the Past Perfect Continuous, we use:

had not (hadn’t) been + the “-ing” form of the verb

I had not been (hadn’t been) sleeping
You hadn’t been sleeping
He/she/it hadn’t been sleeping
We hadn’t been sleeping
You hadn’t been sleeping
They hadn’t been sleeping
  • Mary decided to buy a new juicer because her old one hadn’t been working for years.
  • He hadn’t been studying for 5 months before he returned to the university from a sabbatical leave.
  • I hadn’t been training every day, so my results were very poor.

Questions in Past Perfect Continuous

We use Past Perfect Continuous to ask and answer questions about actions or events that started in the past and continued up to a certain time or another action in the past.

To make questions in the Past Perfect Continuous, we should use the following structure:

had + [subject] + been + -ing verb

Yes/No questions

To create a question that will be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, use ‘Had‘ (or ‘Hadn’t‘ for a negative question) + been + the ing (Present Participle) form of the verb.

Had I been skating?
Had you been skating?
Had he/she/it been skating?
Had we been skating?
Had you been skating?
Had they been skating?
  • Had it been snowing for a long time before you went for a walk?
  • Had you been playing chess with Timothy when your mom called you for dinner?
  • Had she been studying Spanish for three years by the time she went to Madrid?  
Note: In short positive answers to the Past Perfect Continuous questions we use only full forms of ‘had’. In short negative answers we can also use short forms of ‘had’.
  • Had you been playing football?
  • Yes, I had (No, I hadn’t).
  • Had she been watching TV at that moment?
  • Yes, she had (No, she hadn’t).

Special questions

Special questions (also known as wh-questions) are questions that require more information in their answers. They are made using wh- words such as what, where, when, why, which, who, how, how many, how much.

To make a special question, use the same word order as with yes-no questions but put a wh-word before the verb ‘had’. The structure is:

wh-word + had + [subject] + been + -ing verb

  • How long had she been waiting?
  • What had you been doing when you cut your finger?

Note that state verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Instead of using Past Perfect Continuous with these verbs, we should use Past Perfect.

The car had been belonging to Mike for years before Tina bought it.
– The car 
had belonged to Mike for years before Tina bought it.

See also:

Past Perfect Continuous: Statements

Present Perfect Continuous or Past Perfect Continuous?

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