Past Perfect Continuous

Past perfect continuous is formed by had + been + past participle

I had been playing               You had been playing               He / she had been playing

We had been playing               They had been playing

Past Perfect Continuous use

Before you learn about the use of the past perfect continuous, beware that there are some verbs which cannot be used in any of the continuous tenses.  Some verbs will sound strange to you in the continuous form, and it is a good idea to learn what these verbs are: Verbs that Cannot be Used in the Continuous Tenses

 The past perfect continuous is used to talk about past continuing or repeating events which had been continuing up to a certain point in the past:

‘I had been learning English for 6 years before I finally reached advanced level’

‘I had been working for 4 hours and my boss still did not allow me to go for a break!’

This is mainly used when we are focusing on the process of something happening, for example focusing on the length of time that something had been happening, like in the sentences above.

If we are focusing just on the end result of something happening, we use the past perfect simple:

‘I had finished the report by 5pm so I went home on time’

There are certain times when we cannot use the past perfect continuous:

  1. For things which had been continuing in the long term.  Often when we use words like ‘always / ever / never’ we just use present perfect simple:

‘I had always eaten a lot of chocolate before I found out that it was bad for my health!’

2.  If we say how many times we have done something:

‘I have tried to call you three times before you finally answered me!’

‘I had been to Spain twice before so I knew what it was going to be like’

3.  If we are using verbs of emotion:

‘I had always hated fish, so when we went to a fish restaurant I really wasn’t pleased’

For a clearer explanation on the difference between past perfect and past perfect continuous click on the link below:

Find your tense – Past Perfect or Past Perfect Continuous