Make sure you know how to use the past perfect simple before you start this lesson. When you have finished this lesson, try the past perfect practice exercises to see how well you understand the past perfect simple and continuous.

Using the past perfect continuous

I'd been waiting for hours (past perfect continuous).The past perfect continuous is used in a similar way to the present perfect continuous. However, it's for things which happened until a past time, not until now.

So, we use the past perfect continuous for a past action which continues until another time (or event) in the past:

It was 10.30pm. I'd been waiting for two hours.

I'd been waiting for two hours when he finally arrived.

We usually only use continuous forms for action verbs (for example do, run, kiss), so remember to use past perfect simple for state verbs (for example be, know, love):

I'd been there for 2 hours when he finally arrived.


How to make the past perfect continuous

We make the past perfect continuous using had beenverb-ing. It is the same for all people (I, you, he, she ...).

Positive: He knew she'd been lying to him.

Negative: He knew she hadn't been lying to him.

Question: Had she been lying to him?

Past perfect simple or continuous?

We can use both simple and continuous forms when something happened before another time in the past. We prefer past perfect continuous if the event is longer, repeated or unfinished at that time. We use past perfect simple for short, finished, single events or when we say how many.

I was angry because he'd been eating my chocolates.

(continuous: this was repeated and we didn't say how many, and maybe it's unfinished - there were more chocolates left.)

I was angry because he'd eaten all my chocolates.

(simple: this was finished and we said how much.)

When you think you are ready, try the practice exercises to test your understanding.