Related Links

Past Perfect Continuous Tense
The past perfect continuous tense is formed with the past perfect tense of the verb to be (= had been) + the present participle (–ing).

Example: I had been praying.

 

The past perfect continuous is used:

  • for an action that occurred over a period of time in the past.

Example: He had been playing saxophone in a jazz band.

 

  • for an action which started and finished in the past before another past action. Here, since or for is usually used.

Example: Jack got a job at last. He had been looking for a job since last year.
Example: He and his brother had been playing badminton together for ten years before one of them got married.

 

  • in reported speech, the present perfect continuous tense becomes past perfect continuous tense.

Example: John said, "We have been traveling by train across Europe."
Example: John said they had been traveling by train across Europe.

 

Past perfect continuous tense not used for states or feelings
The past perfect continuous is not normally used for states.
NOT: He had been seeming pretty angry at me.
The past simple is used instead:
Example: He seemed pretty angry at me.

 

The past perfect continuous tense and the present perfect continuous tense
He was my tennis partner. We had been playing together for seven years.
He is my tennis partner. We have been playing together for seven years.
It was midnight and you had been watching television for four hours.
It is midnight and you have been watching television for four hours.
Why was he so angry? What had they been doing to him?
Why is he so angry? What have they been doing to him?
She had been shopping for eight hours for a new dress, but couldn't find one she liked.
She has been shopping for eight hours for a new dress, but can't find one she likes.

 

The past perfect continuous tense and the past perfect tense
a) I had been looking everywhere for you.
b) I had looked everywhere for you.
c) Sandy was very confident because she had been rehearsing hard for the play.
d) Sandy was very confident because she had rehearsed hard for the play.
The past continuous and past perfect tenses as used above convey the same meaning as in (a) and (b), (c) and (d).

 

The past perfect continuous tense and the past continuous tense
When I phoned, they all had been saying their prayers. (I phoned after the prayers.)
When I phoned, they all were saying their prayers. (I phoned during the prayers.)
We had been having our dinner when he arrived. (He arrived after dinner.)
We were having our dinner when he arrived. (He arrived during dinner.)