This article focuses on the past perfect continuous tense. To see resources and breakdowns of each verb tense, visit the 12 English Verb Tenses page.
Forming the Past Perfect Continuous Tense (with Tables)
Quick Reference Table: The Past Perfect Continuous Tense in All Forms
Ving → Present Participle
The formula for writing the past perfect continuous tense is: had + been + present participle.
Making It Negative
To make the past perfect continuous tense in negative form, use this formula: Had + not + been + present participle.
Asking a Question
When asking a question in the past perfect continuous tense, use the formula: Had + subject + been + present participle.
When To Use the Past Perfect Continuous Tense
This tense is very similar to the present perfect continuous tense because they both start with an action that begins in the past. However, to use the past perfect continuous tense, the action must have ended at a certain point in the past.
When describing an action that began in the past and continued to another point of time in the past.
When describing the cause and effect of something from the past.
When Not To Use It
Continuous tenses can’t be used with non-continuous verbs. However, there are many verbs that can be both in different situations.
Also, it’s important to note that without a time duration, most speakers will use the past continuous tense instead of the past perfect continuous. However, this can change the meaning of the sentence.
The past continuous is used to emphasize an interrupted action in the present, but the past perfect continuous is used to emphasize the duration of time before something else that happens. Look at these examples:
This sentence implies that she is exhausted because she is working at the moment.
This sentence implies that she is exhausted because she had been working over a period of time. She could still be working or she could be finished.