Past perfect continuous

Functions of the past perfect continuous

The past perfect continuous corresponds to the present perfect continuous, but with reference to a time earlier than 'before now'. As with the present perfect continuous, we are more interested in the process.

Examples
  • Had you been waiting long before the taxi arrived?
  • We had been trying to open the door for five minutes when Jane found her key.
  • It had been raining hard for several hours and the streets were very wet.
  • Her friends had been thinking of calling the police when she walked in.

This form is also used in reported speech. It is the equivalent of the past continuous and the present perfect continuous in direct speech:

  • Jane said, "I have been gardening all afternoon." = Jane said she had been gardening all afternoon.
  • When the police questioned him, John said, "I was working late in the office that night." = When the police questioned him, John told them he had been working late in the office that night.

Forming the past perfect continuous

The past perfect continuous is composed of two elements - the past perfect of the verb to be (=had been) + the present participle (base+ing).

Subject had been verb + ing
I had been walking
Affirmative
She had been trying
Negative
She hadn't been sleeping
Interrogative
Had you been eating?
Interrogative negative
Hadn't they been living?
To buy, past perfect continuous
Affirmative Negative Interrogative
I had been buying I hadn't been buying Had I been buying
You had been buying You hadn't been buying Had you been buying
She had been buying She hadn't been buying Had she been buying
We had been buying We hadn't been buying Had we been buying
They had been buying They hadn't been buying Had they been buying
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