Unit 1.2

Past Perfect Continuous


Past perfect continuous is a tense used to talk about actions or situations that were in progress before some other actions or situations started.

We usually find the past perfect continuous in its three forms:


Its structure, in the affirmative form, is:
Subject + Had + Been + Present Participle + …



Its structure, in the negative form, is:
Subject + Had not + Been + Present Participle + …

  • Negative short form is: hadn’t been.
I/You/He/She/It/We/You/Theyhad not
been walking


Its structure, in the interrogative form, is:
Had/Hadn’t + subject + Been + Present Participle + …?

  • I had been learning to ski for several years before I broke my leg.
  • He had been thinking about the past  recently.
  • My family had been searching for a suitable place to stay before they came here.
  • He hadn’t been thinking about the past recently.
  • Had he been thinking about the past? 

We use past perfect continuous:

  • When we talk about the duration of a past action, up to a certain point in the past;
  • When we show the cause of an action or situation;
  • With third conditional;
  • With reported speech.

Past perfect continuous is used to talk about actions or situations that were in progress before some other actions. It is used to show the cause of an action or situation, to make third conditionals, to use indirect (reported) speech.

Its structure is:

  • Affirmative: Subject had + been + present participle + …
  • Negative: Subject + had not + been + present participle + …
  • Interrogative: Had + Subject + been + present participle + …?

We can use it in its different forms:

  • Affirmative: We start with the subject followed by had been and the present participle.
  • Negative: We start with the subject followed by had not been and the present participle.
  • Interrogative: We start with had followed by the subject followed by been and the present participle (the sentence ends with a question mark).

For example:
— “I had been removing the trash when my dad called.” = Removing the trash is an action that started at a moment in the past and continued for a while until my dad called. Both actions took place in the past. Using past perfect continuous indicates that removing the trash is a progress.
♦ “I had removed the trash before I went to school.” = Past perfect tense shows that removing the trash is the first action that took place. It doesn’t show any progress. It only shows us the order of the actions.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.


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