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How to Use Past Perfect Continuous Verb Tense for English

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Brief overview of the tense

This tense is used to represent an ongoing action that started in the past and continued for a particular time in the past. To put it simply, this tense expresses the continued nature of the action that started and stopped sometime in the past. Usually, a time reference is found in this tense type like “since 2010”, “for 4 hours”.

For this tense, we follow the below structure-

Main Verb-Present Participle (base form verb+ ing) e.g., cooking, watching, playing

Auxiliary Verb- Had been

  • e.g.: I had been driving in this school for 15 days

All grammar rules for forming the tense

  1. Past perfect Continuous Tense is used for any action which was started in the past and still in progress

  • e.g.: Harry had been singing for two hours when I came here.

  1. Past perfect Continuous Tense is used for ‘Since when’ and ‘for how long’

  • e.g.: Since when had he been living in Germany?

  • e.g.: For how long had you been waiting for me?

  1. Past perfect Continuous Tense is used for expressing cause and effect of any action in the sentences

  • e.g.: Matt put on weight because he had been eating too much junk.

Positive Sentences

Subject + Had + been + Verb (Ist form) + Ing + Object + For/Since + Time + Remaining + (.)

  • E.g.: I had been running for an hour before I broke my ankle

Negative Sentences

Subject + Had + Not + been + Verb (Ist form) + Ing + Object + For/Since + Time + Remaining + (.)

  • E.g.: Jim hadn't been studying for longer than 30 minutes

Interrogative Sentences

HAD + Subject + BEEN + Verb (continuous form)

e. g.: he, she, a dog, etc. e. g.: walking, going, taking, etc.

  • e.g.: For how long had Mina been dancing?

All situations the tense is used in

The Past Perfect Continuous is mainly used to express actions or situations that were in progress before some other actions or situations.

Below are the situations it is used in-

1. The tense is used to express the duration of a past action.


  • Girls had been cooking lunch for half an hour when we arrived.

  • Joe had been seeing each other for 2 years before they got married

2. The tense is used to show cause of an action or situation in the past.


  • The city was cold because it had been snowing

  • Melissa got hurt because she had been driving too fast

3. The past perfect continuous tense also appears in reported speech


  • The boy said he knew Jim had been hiding something from him

4. The tense is also used in third conditional sentences


  • If it hadn't been a weekday, we would have gone to watch the new release.

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