Past Perfect Progressive

Breaking Down the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The Past perfect progressive is a verb tense which is used to denote an action that has been in progress continuously up to the point of another action in the past.

Explaining the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The Past perfect progressive tense shows action that has been in progress continuously up to the point of another action in the past. This tense is related to the present perfect progressiveOpens in new window; however, in the past perfect progressive, the duration does not continue until now because it stops before something else in the past.

Fig1. If we draw a picture of this type of action, it looks like this.

Basically, the past perfect progressive emphasizes the duration of action that was in progress before another action or time in the past. In other words, it shows that an action started before a time in the past and that the action continued until (or almost until) that time.

Using the past perfect progressive before another action in the past is a good way to express the idea of cause and effect.

See practical examples:
  • Andy had been chatting online before he went to bed.
  • Her skin was sunburned because she had been lying on the beach all day.
  • Before the criminals were caught, the police had been hunting for them for six months.

How to use the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

1.  Expression of Affirmative Statements with Past Perfect Progressive Tense: To make affirmative statement with past perfect progressive tense, the structure: subject + had been + ...ing form of verb is used.

Examples include:
  • When Laurel eventually opened the door, Beatrice had been knocking for ten minutes.
  • The children were exhausted because they had been dancing all through the party.
  • We had been living in Memphis for 18 years before we moved to the suburb.

2.  Expression of Negative Statements with Past Perfect Progressive Tense: To make negative statement with past perfect progressive tense, the structure: subject + had not been + ...ing form of verb is used.

Examples include:
  • Laurel opened the door quite late because for five minutes Beatrice had not been knocking properly.
  • The children were bored because they had not been dancing all through the party.
  • We had not been living in Memphis for longer time before we moved to the suburb.

3.  Expression of Interrogative Statements with Past Perfect Progressive Tense: To make interrogative statement with past perfect progressive tense, the structure: (interrogative word) + had + subject + been + ...ing form of verb is used.

Examples include:
  • These kids looked so dirty, where had they been playing?
  • How long had Lola been living in Memphis before she came to Durham city?
  • Had Effiong been drinking before he arrived home?

4.  Expression of Negative Interrogative Statements with Past Perfect Progressive Tense: To make negative interrogative statement with past perfect progressive tense, the structure: (interrogative word) + had not + subject + been + ...ing form of verb. However, the contraction form ‘hadn’t’ is used instead of ‘had not’.

Examples include:
  • These kids looked so clean, hadn’t they been playing?
  • hadn’t Lola been living in Memphis before she came to Durham city?
  • Effiong looked so cool hadn’t he been drinking before he arrived home?

Note that the Interrogatives are rarely used in formal contexts. Chances are you will seldom have needs to use interrogatives.

    The Four Aspects of Past Tense
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