Contents:


Form

Affirmative sentences 

Full form:

subject + “had been” + present participle of verb

Contracted form:

pronoun + “‘d been” + present participle of verb

  • “He had been having a difficult time at school.”
  • “We‘d been looking everywhere for him until he finally called us.”

* Please note: “I had” has the same contraction, “I’d.” To avoid confusion, remember that “would” is followed by the base form of the verb and “had” is followed by the past participle form.

Negative sentences 

Full form:

subject + “had not been” + present participle of verb

Contracted form:

subject + “hadn’t been” + present participle of verb

  • “I had not been feeling well and went to bed early.”
  • “He hadn’t been sleeping much before the exam.”
Questions 

Full forms:

(a) “had” + subject + “been” + present participle of verb

(b) question word + “had” + subject + “been” + present participle of verb

  • Had he been thinking about the offer?”
  • How long had she been working in the retail industry before this job?”

* Please note: Questions in the past perfect continuous are not that common in conversational English. Native speakers will often use other tenses and idiomatic phrases to ask the same thing.

Negative questions

It is possible to make negative questions even though their uses are quite specific. [See also: Negative questions]

The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. Contracted forms are preferred in general.

Contracted forms:

(a) “hadn’t” + subject + “been” + present participle of verb

(b) question word + “hadn’t” + subject + “been” + present participle of verb

Full forms:

(a) “had” + subject + “not” + “been” + present participle of verb

(b) question word + “had” + subject + “not been” + present participle of verb

  • Hadn’t he been thinking about the offer?”
  • Why had she not been sleeping?”

Timeline

For this tense, it is useful for ask, “Until this point, what was happening?”

Events are usually ongoing activities that started before a particular time in the past and continue up to that time in the past.


Uses of the Past perfect continuous tense

1.   To refer to past activities that were still ongoing before a certain point in the past.
  • “He‘d been feeling unwell and finally went to see a doctor yesterday.”
  • “We got a refund last week. Apparently we‘d been paying more than we were supposed to.”
a. With “for” and “since” – To describe the duration of a past activity.
  • “We‘d been waiting outside for an hour until they finally let us in.”
  • “They‘d been arguing since Wally lost his job two months ago.”
2.   To explain why something was happening.
  • “I didn’t receive your emails because you‘d been sending them to the wrong email address.”
  • “He was so tired. He‘d been working all night to finish his homework.”
3.   With “if” – In conditional sentences when a different past is imagined.
  • “If he’d been going to classes, then he wouldn’t have been expelled.”
  • “We would’ve been at the concert by now if you hadn’t been playing games all day.”

Original post: 7 April 2021

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