Past Perfect Continuous Usage 1: Continuous action before a point in time in the past

We use Past Perfect Continuous when action started in the past, continued for some time, and finished before a point in time the past. It’s a continuous action before a point in time in the past.

1. Action started in the past

2. Action continued for a period of time

3. Action stopped before or by a point in time in the past

For a period of time:

We can use for or since, all morning to show that an action was ongoing for a period of time.

She had been watching TV for 2 hours before he came.

They had been working since 2 pm, that’s why they looked so tired.

Up until:

We need to show that an action was ongoing up until something happened. Use before, when, by the time and their synonyms or synonymous expressions.

She had been watching TV for 2 hours before he came.

They had been working for 2 hours when she came.

Point in time:

another action (usually in Past Simple)

They had been working for 2 hours when she came.

event

They had been working for 2 days before his visit.

contextual time (not explicitly indicated, however, we can understand it from context)

They looked so tired. They had been working for 2 days. (= they had been working for 2 days before that moment when they looked tired)

Recap: Past Perfect Continuous

We use Past Perfect Continuous when an action started in the past, continued for some time, and normally, it was interrupted at a point in time in the past.

They had been living in the city for already 9 years when the war began.

Did they continue living in the city? It’s a topic of discussion. Many reputable sites say that an action continued for some time and was interrupted, or in other words, it stopped, can we understand it this way? Well, definitely it was interrupted, but did the action stop? It’s an interesting question.

Also on Past Perfect Continuous:

Back to: Past Perfect Continuous (Progressive) Tense

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