The Past Perfect Progressive

We use the past perfect progressive (continuous) tense to describe something that was happening or in
progress before something else happened or vice-versa.

  • When she came into the house she was very upset and she had been crying because she was in an accident. 
  • Our baseball game had been cancelled because it had been raining hard all day. 
  • Fernando finally had to go to the hospital because he had been drinking everyday for the last thirty years. 
  • The streets were very slippery because it had been snowing all night.
  • I was exhausted when we got to Atlanta, I had been driving all day. 

In the above examples one action was taking place and something else happened before.

  • She had been crying because she was in an accident.
  • The baseball game was cancelled because it had been raining.
  • Fred went to the hospital because of his continuous action of drinking.
  • The streets are slippery now because it was snowing for several hours.
  • I was tired because I had been driving all day.

The structure for the past perfect continuous is as follows:

 Subject  + Had Been  + Verb in Ing  + Complementizer
 had been  studying Spanish for three years when I stopped.
 had been  working all day, that’s why you’re tired. 
 had been  reading that book for a week and he finished it.  
 had been  smoking for years, now she has to go to the doctor.
 had been  raining and the game was cancelled. 
 had been  traveling for years before we settled down.  
 had been  singing all day and now they have a sore throat.

Notice the difference between “present perfect progressive” and the “past perfect progressive”.

Present Perfect Progressive

  • I hope she finishes cooking soon, I’ve been waiting for an hour. 
  • She’s tired, she’s been swimming all day. 
  • He’s upset, he’s been arguing with his girlfriend. 
  • It’s very noisy, the neighbors have been having a party since 12:00 PM. 
  • It’s a nice day, the sun has been shinning all day. 

Past Perfect Progressive

  • She finally finished cooking
    , I had been waiting for an hour. 
  • She was tired
    , she had been swimming all day. 
  • He was upset
    , he had been arguing with his girlfriend. 
  • It was very noisy
    , the neighbors had been having a party. 
  • It was a nice day
    , the sun had been shinning all day. 

Notice that in the examples of the present perfect progressive the actions started in the past and are still taking place now. In the examples of the past perfect progressive the action started in the past and is no longer continuing.