Past perfect progressive or continuous tense is very similar to the past perfect tense, only that the focus of this tense is the duration of the action being done in the past before another action happened. It shows that something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past. “For five minutes” and “for two weeks” are both durations which can be used with the Past Perfect Continuous. Notice that this is related to the Present Perfect Continuous tense,however, the duration does not continue until now, it stops before something else in the past.
1) Duration Before Something in the Past
- He had been working at that company for three years when it went out of business.
- How long had you been waiting to get on the train?
- I wanted to sit down because I had been standing this whole morning.
2) Using the Past Perfect Continuous before another action in the past is a good way to show cause and effect
- Steve was tired because he had been jogging.
- Susan gained weight because she had been overeating.
- He failed the test because he had not been attending class.
3) Third Conditional
Remember that this tense is also used in third conditional sentences.
- If it hadn’t been raining, we would have gone to the park.
4) Reported Speech
- She said she knew Mike had been lying to her.
- Mary said she had never been swimming so much in one day.
1) When the past perfect progressive answers a how-long question, it often uses the words for and since.
a). The boys were very tired because they had been playing basketball since early this morning.
b). The boys were very tired because they had been playing basketball for 4 hours.
Notice that it is not necessary to use the words before and after when using the past perfect progressive.
2) It is important to remember that Non-Continuous Verbs cannot be used in any continuous tenses. Also, certain non-continuous meanings for Mixed Verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses. Instead of using Past Perfect Continuous with these verbs, you must use Past Perfect.
- The motorcycle had been belonging to George for years before Tina bought it. Not Correct
- The motorcycle had belonged to George for years before Tina bought it. Correct