How to Use the Past Perfect Continuous

Video Overview

The past perfect continuous is used to show that something began in the past and continued until another point in the past. The action started in the past and was completed in the past. This video will help you remember the grammar rules and formula for the past perfect continuous in English and show you how and when to use it.

Video Analysis

The past perfect continuous is often used to tell us how long an action continued for in the past.

You can create a past perfect continuous with a subject, the past participle of 'be' (had been), the base verb and ing.

subject + had been + base verb + ing

She had been reading for four hours.

He had been gardening.

They had been sailing all day.

The Past Perfect Continuous is used when we want to focus on the engagement in ongoing actions leading up to a specific time in the past or let others know how long an action in the past took place for.

She had been studying for three years.

He had been living in Germany for a year.

They had been talking for hours.

Another use of the Past Perfect Continuous focuses on the relationship between two actions or events in the past.

I had been on the train when I lost my wallet.

I had been skiing when I broke my arm.

We had been travelling all day when we reached the hotel.

We can also use the past perfect continuous to explain why something was happening at a particular point in the past. Usually, in these cases we use the addition of the word 'because' or 'as' to emphasise the cause and effect.

She had been crying because her dog was hurt.

He had been angry because his car was stolen.

The had been hungry as they hadn't eaten since breakfast.

Sometimes you will want to stress the duration of an action that took some time to complete, but the specific time of the action is not important.

She had been cooking for a long time.

He had been here for what felt like forever.

They had been waiting for ages.

Watch our video on the Past Perfect Continuous for more information about when and to use this tense correctly and more examples. Visit our write up on The Past Perfect Continuous for more in-depth information and a mind map to help you remember.

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