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Past Perfect Continuous Definition and Examples

We use the Past Perfect Continuous Tense to show that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past.
The duration does not continue until now, it stops before something else in the past.

Past Perfect Continuous Definition and Examples
Past Perfect Continuous Definition and Examples

Structure of Sentence

Positive: (Subject + had been + 1st form of verb + ing + Object +( time reference))

  • I had been waiting for him for one hour.

Negative: (Subject + had not been + 1st from of verb + ing + Object + ( time reference))

  • I had not been waiting for him for one hour.

Interrogative: (Had + Subject + been + 1st from of verb + ing + Object + ( time reference + ?))

  • Had I been waiting for him for one hour?
  • James had been teaching at the university for more than a year before he left for Asia.
  • A: How long had you been studying Turkish before you moved to Ankara?
  • B: I had not been studying Turkish very long.

More uses of past perfect continuous tense

Past Continuous vs. Past Perfect Continuous
If you do not include a duration such as “for five minutes,” “for two weeks” or “since Friday,” many English speakers choose to use the Past Continuous rather than the Past Perfect Continuous. Be careful because this can change the meaning of the sentence. Past Continuous emphasizes interrupted actions, whereas Past Perfect Continuous emphasizes a duration of time before something in the past. 

  • He was tired because he was exercising so hard.
    This sentence emphasizes that he was tired because he was exercising at that exact moment.
  • He was tired because he had been exercising so hard.
    This sentence emphasizes that he was tired because he had been exercising over a period of time. It is possible that he was still exercising at that moment OR that he had just finished.

REMEMBER Non-Continuous Verbs / Mixed Verbs
It is important to remember that Non-Continuous Verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also, certain non-continuous meanings for Mixed Verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. Instead of using Past Perfect Continuous Tense with these verbs, you must use Past Perfect Tense.

  • The motorcycle had been belonging to George for years before Tina bought it. Not Correct
  • The motorcycle had belonged to George for years before Tina bought it. Correct

Cause of Something in the Past
Using the Past Perfect Continuous before another action in the past is a good way to show cause and effect.

  • Jason was tired because he had been jogging.
  • Zahra failed the final test because she had not been attending class.

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