The Past Perfect Progressive

When do we use the Past Perfect Progressive?

The Past Perfect Progressive combines aspects of the Past Progressive and the Past Perfect . Please remember that this tense is used less than 5% of the time - so don't overuse it! When we do use it, it is:

  • to emphasize the length of an action (Progressive) and show that it started in the past and had been going on before a past action (Past Perfect)
    • He had been working for the company for over twenty years when he retired.
  • as the past of the Present Perfect Progressive
    • Present Perfect Progressive: John still isn't here? How long have you been waiting for him?
    • Past Perfect Progressive: How long had you been waiting for John before he arrived?
  • to emphasize or show that it was a long time
    • You can use this tense to show that you felt it was a long period of time although it may not seem to have been.
    • e.g. I had been waiting for him for over twenty minutes before John showed up.

How do I make the tense?

The Past Perfect Progressive is formed with the Past Perfect form of the verb to be (had been) and the -ing form of the main verb.

Here are examples of:

 

Statements:

  • I had (I’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.
  • You had (You’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.
  • She had (She’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.
  • He had (He’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.
  • It had (It’d) been working for over ten years before it broke down. (E.g. the computer)
  • We had (We’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.
  • You had (You’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.
  • They had (They’d) been working here for over ten years before retiring.

Questions:

  • How long had I been working here before retiring?
  • How long had you been working here before retiring?
  • How long had she been working here before retiring?
  • How long had he been working here before retiring?
  • How long had it been working before it broke down?
  • How long had we been working here before retiring?
  • How long had you been working here before retiring?
  • How long had they been working here before retiring?

Negatives:

  • I had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.
  • You had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.
  • She had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.
  • He had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.
  • It had not (hadn’t) been working very long before it broke down.
  • We had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.
  • You had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.
  • They had not (hadn’t) been working there very long before retiring.

Short answers

  • Yes, I had.
  • Yes, she had.
  • No, I had not.
  • No, I hadn’t
  • No, she had not.
  • No, she hadn’t.