Past Perfect Progressive Tense

When to use Past Perfect Progressive

  • Ongoing/unfinished things at a certain point in time in the past
    I’d been dating this girl from school when I met Lisa.
    My brother had been reading comics for a long time when he decided to draw his own story.
  • Actions that just finished before another event in the past
    The kids had been making a mess, so I had to clean up.
    It had been raining, so I had to take the car.
  • Cause and effect
    I had to retake the exam because I hadn’t been studying for the first one.
    The boy had to apologize to the neighbor because he had been playing the violin loudly.

Structure of Past Perfect Progressive

Subject + had + been + Progressive Participle of Main Verb + Object

Past Perfect Progressive combines the perfect and the progressive aspect in past tense. To express the perfect aspect, we need the auxiliary verb ‘to have’ and to express progression, we need the auxiliary verb ‘to be’. The auxiliary verb ‘to have’ must be in simple past form given the past tense. ‘To have’ is always followed by the past participle of the verb. Therefore, we need to use the past participle of ‘to be’ which is ‘been’. ‘Been’ is followed by the progressive participle (-ing form) of the actual action verb as in case of all progressive tenses.

Some examples for the structure:
My dog had been acting weird for days before it got sick.
The patient had been feeling very sick when the doctor visited him.
My mom had been working very hard when she was promoted.

Take a look at the following table to review how Present Perfect Progressive is formed:

Do you remember that some verbs cannot be used in progressive tenses? To review them, click here.

Making the Past Perfect Progressive Negative

To create the negative form of a Past Perfect Progressive verb, you need to combine ‘not’ and the auxiliary verb ‘had’. The short form is ‘hadn’t. Remember to use the short forms in informal conversations and the long forms in a written, formal context.

Subject + had + not + been + Progressive Participle of Main Verb

He hadn’t been working on his research paper.
I hadn’t been staying up late so mom woke me up.
They hadn’t been talking for a long time when they finally made up.

Yes/No Questions in Past Perfect Progressive

Questions in Past Perfect Progressive are formed by switching the auxiliary verb ‘had’ and the subject. The word order of the rest of the sentence remains unchanged. For example:

Had you been doing a presentation when she called you?
Had you been skiing when you broke your leg?

Open-Ended Questions in Past Perfect Progressive

In case of open-ended questions, always start with the questions word. After the questions word, follow the usual word order for questions: auxiliary verb – subject – main verb – object -etc. The auxiliary verb in Past Perfect Progressive is ‘had’ which is followed by the subject.

How long had you been living in Germany before you moved here?
Who had you been living in Vienna with when you got that job offer?
Where had you been training before the new stadium was built?

Typical Adverbs of Past Perfect Progressive

The typical adverbs of the Present Perfect Progressive Tense are mostly the same with the typical adverbs of the Present Perfect Tense. However, the focus is always on the continuity of the action at a given moment. These adverbs are:

when, after, before, by the time, since, for

Some examples:
She’d been working to the same company for years before she got fired.
I was feeling so much better after I had been resting for a couple of days.
It had been raining since I woke up.
Before I went to bed, I had been watching Game of Thrones.