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Past Perfect Continuous Tense: How to Use It, With Examples

Updated on May 18, 2023Grammar

The past perfect continuous (also known as the past perfect progressive) is a verb tense that shows that an action that started in the past continued up until another time in the past. 

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How to form the past perfect continuous

The formula for the past perfect continuous tense is had been + [present participle (root form of verb + -ing)].

Unlike the present perfect continuous, which indicates an action that began in the past and has continued up to the present, the past perfect continuous indicates something that began in the past, continued in the past, and also ended at a defined point in the past.

He had been drinking milk out the carton when Mom walked into the kitchen.
I had been working at the company for five years when I got the promotion.

When, for, since, and before are words that you may see used alongside the past perfect continuous tense.

Martha had been walking three miles a day before she broke her leg.
The program that was terminated had been running smoothly since 1945.
Anh Ngoc had been playing the piano for thirty-five years when she was finally asked to do a solo with the local orchestra.
He had been throwing rocks at her window for five minutes before she finally came out on the balcony and said, “Hey, Romeo.”

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