Rule And Use Of Past Perfect Continuous Tense With Examples

The past perfect continuous tense is a verb tense used to describe an action that started in the past and continued until another specified point in the past. This tense is formed by using the past perfect tense of the verb “to be” (had been) + the present participle of the main verb (verb + -ing).

It’s important to know all the different tenses in English. The past perfect continuous is one of the 12 tenses in English grammar that can enhance your writing and speaking skills.

In this blog post, we will take a look at what the past perfect continuous is, how to use it, and when to use it.

What Is Past Perfect Continuous Tense?

Past perfect continuous tense is the tense we use to talk about an action or event happening in the past for a time period. That means an action that started in the past and continued until another specified point.

Unlike the present perfect continuous tense, there is no connection between the past with the present in this tense. So, it is an action that started at some point and was completed in the past.

Using this tense emphasizes the period in which the action started and continued. In other words, an event that occurred at some point was much longer and was completed in the past.

Examples Of Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Let’s look at some examples of past perfect continuous tense sentences in English.

  1. We had been waiting for him for three hours when he finally came.
  2. I had been working on this project before they stopped funding it.
  3. Isabella was exhausted because she had been cleaning her house all day.
  4. Emma had been cooking for three hours when her guests arrived.
  5. My son got promoted recently. He had been working very hard to achieve this. 
  6. My sister had been waiting for this day for ages.
  7. When I saw them, they had been sitting for an hour in the park.
  8. He had been living in Canada before he moved to Japan.
  9. Kids had been playing in the park before it started to rain.
  10. Olivia had been learning Spanish for a couple of months.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Rule

In the above sentences, we have used the helping verbs (Auxiliary): had been and the main verb in –ing form. An interesting fact is that you don’t have to decide for has or have. It will always be “had been” with any “subject” while making a sentence in the past perfect continuous.

SubjectAuxiliaryVerb Form
IHad beenV+ing
He/She/ItHad beenV+ing
We/You/TheyHad beenV+ing
Past Perfect Continuous Tense Rule

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Structure

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Structure And Examples
Past perfect continuous tense structure with examples!

Now let’s look at the past perfect continuous tense structure that we use to make sentences in this tense.  

1. Affirmative Sentence Structure

Subject + had + been + Verb (-ing) + Object

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Examples – Affirmative Sentences

  • Alex had been working all night.
  • I had been working for six and haft hours.
  • They had been preparing for the competition since 2019.
  • He had been living in this city for five years before he left.
  • She had been drinking all day.
  • It had been raining for two days.
  • We had been waiting for him to get married.
  • You had been fighting for justice for so long.
  • Emma had been singing for two hours.  

2. Negative Sentence Structure

Subject + had + not + been + Verb (-ing) + Object

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Examples – Negative Sentences

  • Alex had not been working all night.
  • I had not been working for six and haft hours.
  • They had not been preparing for the competition since 2019.
  • He had not been living in this city for five years before he left.
  • She had not been drinking all day.
  • It had not been raining for two days.
  • We had not been waiting for him to get married.
  • You had not been fighting for justice for so long.
  • Emma had not been singing for two hours.  

3. Interrogative (Question) Sentence Structure

Had + Subject + been + Verb (-ing) + Object?

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Examples – Interrogative (Question) Sentences

  • Had Alex been working all night?
  • Had I been working for six and haft hours?
  • Had they been preparing for the competition since 2019?
  • Had he been living in this city for five years before he left?
  • Had she been drinking all day?
  • Had it been raining for two days?
  • Had we been waiting for him to get married?
  • Had you been fighting for justice for so long?
  • Had Emma been singing for two hours?  

4. Interrogative Negative Sentence Structure

Had + Subject + not + been + Verb (-ing) + Object?

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Examples – Interrogative Negative Sentences

  • Had Alex not been working all night?
  • Had not been working for six and haft hours?
  • Had they not been preparing for the competition since 2019?
  • Had he not been living in this city for five years before he left?
  • Had she not been drinking all day?
  • Had it not been raining for two days?
  • Had we not been waiting for him to get married?
  • Had you not been fighting for justice for so long?
  • Had Emma not been singing for two hours?  

Contraction with Past Perfect Continuous

We use contractions with past perfect continuous tense in our written and spoken conversations, mostly in informal settings. 

Let us have a look at how the contractions work with past perfect continuous tense.

With Affirmative Sentences

For the affirmative sentences we combine the subject and the helping verb “had” to make the contraction.

For Example:

  • I’d been working for six and haft hours. (I had – I’d)
  • She’d been drinking all day. (She had – she’d)

Contraction with Affirmative Past Perfect Continuous

  • I had been – I’d been
  • You had been – you’d been
  • He had been – he’d been
  • She had been – she’d been
  • We had been – we’d been
  • They had been – they’d been
  • It had been – it’d been

With Negative Sentences

For the negative sentences, we combine the helping verb “had” and the word “not” to make the contraction.

Had not been – Hadn’t been

Examples:

  • Alex hadn’t been working all night.
  • I hadn’t been working for six and haft hours.
  • They hadn’t been preparing for the competition since 2019.
  • He hadn’t been living in this city for five years before he left.
  • She hadn’t been drinking all day.
  • It hadn’t been raining for two days.
  • We hadn’t been waiting for him to get married.
  • You hadn’t been fighting for justice for so long.
  • Emma hadn’t been singing for two hours.  

With Negative Interrogative Sentences

For the negative interrogative past perfect continuous, we can use the structure:

Hadn’t + Subject + been + Verb (-ing) + Object?

Examples:

  • Hadn’t Alex been working all night?
  • Hadn’t been working for six and haft hours?
  • Hadn’t they been preparing for the competition since 2019?
  • Hadn’t he been living in this city for five years before he left?
  • Hadn’t she been drinking all day?
  • Hadn’t it been raining for two days?
  • Hadn’t we been waiting for him to get married?
  • Hadn’t you been fighting for justice for so long?
  • Hadn’t Emma been singing for two hours?  

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