The Past Perfect Continuous

past perfect continuous

What is it good for?

  • Talking about an action in the past that continued before another action.
    • He had only been running for about five minutes before it started to rain. 
    • She had only been making cookies for five minutes when the oven caught on fire.
  • Talking about the cause of something in the past.
    • They had been throwing garbage in the street all week, so the town was a mess.
    • He was tired because he had been working all day.
    • They were sunburned because they had been lying on the beach all day.

Making it Negative:

Subject + had not been (or hadn’t been) + present participle (+object)


  • He had not been working for weeks, so his boss fired him.
  • You hadn’t been daydreaming for more than three minutes when she slapped you.

Asking a Question:

Had + subject + been + present participle (+object)

  • Had he been going to work at all that week?
  • Had she been baking cookies for a long time before the fire started?
  • Had you been getting your emails before your computer broke?

Important –

If you don’t include the duration (“for five minutes,” “all day,” etc), often people use the Past Continuous instead.

What is the difference? In a nutshell, the Past Perfect Continuous puts more importance on the duration of the past action, while the Past Continuous is used more for interrupted actions.


Questions? Ask in the Contact Form or book a class with me to practice!