Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

The past perfect continuous tense describes a sequence or duration of events occurring entirely in the past. This tense is similar to the present perfect continuous tense except for the fact that the duration does not carry up to the present moment. Rather, the sequence of events begins and ends in the past.

  • I had been waiting on the corner for an hour before my dad showed up.
  • She had been eating ice cream 25 years before she found out she was lactose intolerant.
  • They had been going to that restaurant all summer until they moved across town.

Forming the Past Perfect Continuous Tense

You form the past perfect continuous tense by combining the past tense form of the auxiliary verb “to have” with the past participle form of the verb “to be” and the -ing form of the root verb.

  • We had been looking at the paintings for hours when the guard announced it was time to leave the museum.
  • You had been asking who my brother was when he walked through the door.
  • I had been on hold for over an hour when the customer service rep finally came on.

Making the Past Perfect Continuous Tense Negative

You make the past perfect continuous tense negative adding “not” to the past tense auxiliary verb “to have.”

  • I hadn’t been learning anything until we got that new teacher in seventh grade.
  • We hadn’t been swimming for five minutes when we saw a shark.
  • They had not been walking long before they decided to sit down on a bench.

Phrasing the Past Perfect Continuous Tense as a Question

To phrase the past perfect continuous tense as a question, you put the past tense form of the verb “to have” first, followed by the subject, the past participle form of “to be,” and finally the -ing form of the root verb. Interrogatives can also begin with adverbs expressing time or place.

  • Had he been working on that for long when you came in?
  • Hadn’t they been sleeping for hours when the car alarm woke them up?
  • Had we been waiting long when the song we loved finally played on the radio?

Learn more about verb tenses.