English Grammar-Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Structure of sentence:

Main verb: Present participle (‘ing’) Eg: going, playing, reading etc.

Auxiliary verb: Had been (whatever may be the subject).

The formula for past perfect continuous tense (Positive) is: Subject+Auxiliary verbs+Main verb(ing form).

Positive          Negative                 Interrogative
I had been writing. I had not been writing. Had I been writing?
We had been writing. We had not been writing Had we been writing?
You had been writing. You had not been writing. Had you been writing?
He had been writing. He had not been writing. Had he been writing?
She had been writing. She had not been writing. Had she been writing?
It had been writing. It had not been writing. Had it been writing?
They had been writing. They had not been writing. Had they been writing?

Rules and uses of Past perfect continuous tense

  • Action started in past, continued some time and stopped.
  • For how long and since what time
  • Cause and effect

This Tense is used to express an action which began at some point of time in the past, continued for some time and was subsequently discontinued.

A time reference is seen in past perfect continuous kind of sentences like “Since 2005”, “for three hours” etc. This time reference specifies that the action started in the past and continued in the past.

Example sentences :

  1.  Sam had been working at that company for five years before he started his own business. (Positive sentence)
  2.  She had not been taking any medicine for ten months and she became seriously sick. (Negative sentence).
  3.  Had he been playing basket ball for two hours by the time you reached the stadium? (Interrogative sentence)


Action started in past, continued some time and stopped.

We use past perfect continuous tense to express an action that started in the past, continued in the past.


  1.  They had been playing for two hours when I went there.
  2.  What had she been doing since 5 o’clock?
  3.  For how long and since what time

For how long and since what time

Past perfect continuous tense is used when we have “for how long” and “since what time” words in the beginniing of the sentences.

Example :

  1. For how long had he been reading that book?
  2. Since when had they been living abroad?

Cause and effect

We use past perfect continuous tense is used to express cause and effect of any action in the sentences.

 Example :

  1. He is tired because he had been working without sleep for two days.
  2. They watched the movie first day because they had been waiting eagerly for the release.


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