Past Perfect Continuous Tense in English

Using Past Perfect Continuous Tense, Definitions and Examples. Follow the list for detailed expressions;

The tenses simply show the time of an action.


Past Perfect Continuous Tense indicates a past action which started in the past and continued to happen after another action and time in the past. Namely, Past Perfect Continuous Tense tell us “how long the action had continued”. ” the duration of the action”  is emphasized more in this tense.

POSITIVE FORM (+) :  Subject + HAD BEEN + Ving

NEGATIVE FORM (-) : Subject + HAD + NOT + BEEN ( HADN’T BEEN ) + Ving

QUESTION FORM (?) : HAD+ Subject + BEEN + Ving



I had been watchingI had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad I been watchingHad not / Hadn’t I been watching
You had been watchingYou had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad you been watchingHad not / Hadn’t you been watching
He had been watchingHe had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad he been watchingHad not / Hadn’t he been watching
She had been watchingShe had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad she been watchingHad not / Hadn’t she been watching
It had been watchingIt had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad it been watchingHad not / Hadn’t it been watching
We had been watchingWe had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad we been watchingHad not / Hadn’t we been watching
You had been watchingYou had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad you been watchingHad not / Hadn’t you been watching
They had been watchingThey had not ( hadn’t) been watchingHad they been watchingHad not / Hadn’t they been watching


For “HAD”;

had –> ‘d    Ex: I‘d been watching.

had not –> hadn’t   Ex: I hadn’t been watching.


Common Tense Markers:

For / Since / All day / The whole day



  • When her husband came home, the woman had been cleaning the house for hours.
  • The ground was covered with snow. It had been snowing heavy for several hours.
  • They had been being friend since childhood.
  • I hadn’t been waiting for Sarah for 40 minutes before she called me.
  • Thomas had been trying to repair the phone the whole day.
  • We had been studying all day so we tired.
  • Helen had been listening the same music for 4 hours when I came back home.
  • My daughter hadn’t been eating anything all day.
  • She had been living in London all her life.
  • Had they been running for several minutes when the teacher came?
  • He was a very good football player. He had been playing football since he was a teenegar.
  • Had you been waiting to talk to the teacher for hours?
  • Daniel had been watching TV for hours before he slept.
  • You had been walking all afternoon on the beach. 
  • She hadn’t been working all day so she was energetic.
  • Had you been studying English since 3 o’clock.


We use other question words ( Like Who, What, Why , etc.) in past perfect continuous tense.

Question Words (who, what, why, etc.) + had + subject + been V3


  • What had you been doing for hours outside?
  • Where had he been living for 5 years?
  • Why had she been crying all day?



1. Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used to express the past action, already started and continued to happen after another action or time in the past. 

( In such sentenses, it is emphasized how long the action has continued.)

( Past Perfect Continuous Tense shows that the action was not completed ( the event continued to happen ) )


  • We had been looking for the wallet for 2 hours when Susan found it.
  • She had been writting reports since morning when the boss came the office.
  • My wife had been cooking the meal since 4 o’clock when my father called us.
  • Tom had been sitting in the garden for 2 hours when his friends went to the cinema.
  • They had been celebrating their wedding anniversary for hours when David arrived.

2. An event which finished just before another past event. Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used to express the cause of the second event.


  • The ground was wet. It had been raining all day.
  • She was very sad because she had been working the whole day at work
  • He had been living in Mexico for a long time so I didn’t see him.
  • We were so tired because we had been trying to solve the problem since morning.
  • My eyes were painful because I had been playing computer game for hours.

3. Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used in reported speech.

( In reported speech, Past Perfect Tense is used instead of ” Past Continuous Tense and Present Perfect Continuous Tense in direct speech ”  )


  • She told him she had been living in London. ( She told ‘I was living in London’ )
  • They said it had been raining. ( They said ‘It was raining’ )
  • He said he had been walking along the street. ( He said ‘I was walking along the street.’ )
  • The employees said they had been trying to finish the project for two weeks.  ( They said ‘ We have been trying to finish the project for two weeks.’ )
  • My father said he had been painting all the walls since Monday. ( My father said ‘ I have been painting all the walls since Monday’ )
  • Helen said she had been swimming. ( Helen said ‘I have been swimming.’ )


For Differences Between Past Perfect Tense and Past Perfect Continuous Tense click here

For Differences Between Past Perfect Continuous Tense and Present Perfect Continuous Tense click here

For Differences Between Past Continuous Tense and Past Perfect Continuous Tense click here

For Past Perfect Tense click here



Past Perfect Continuous Tense” is not used with “stative verbs ( non-progressive verbs )”. 

( We use “Past Perfect Tense” instead of “Past Perfect Continuous Tense” when stative verbs are used in a sentence )


  • They had understood the subject. ( we can not say …had been understanding…)
  • We had believed you. ( we can not say …had been believing…)
  • Linda had appeared confused. ( we can not say …had been appearing…)