Past Perfect Progressive
The twelve verb tenses in English come from three main tenses (present, past, and future) and the four aspects (simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect progressive). The past perfect progressive tense describes a course of events that began and continued until another point in the past. Its formula or verb conjugation is: had been + (main verb + ing). For example, I had been studying for my exam when my mom called.
Mastering all the forms of the various tenses can seem intimidating, but learning and understanding how each one works will enable you to master your English language skills. We will dive into the past perfect progressive tense — what it is, how it’s formed, and when it is used — so after reading it, you should feel confident using this essential part of the language.
What is Past Perfect Progressive Tense?
Past Perfect Progressive Tense is a verb tense describing an action that started and continued up until another point in the past. Its formula contains the auxiliary verb “had been” followed by the present participle or verb + ing.
Here are five examples of past perfect progressive tense:
1. My mom was angry because I had been ignoring her calls.
2. We had been working on the project for two weeks before we presented it.
3. She had been cooking dinner for an hour when I arrived.
4. They had been playing basketball since morning.
5. I had been studying for my exam when my mom called.
Past Perfect Progressive Tense Rules
The common question in learning this verb tense is: when to use past perfect progressive tense? The table below summarizes its proper usage:
|Use of Past Perfect Progressive Tense||Examples|
|Shows the cause and effect relationship of past events||Shows the cause-and-effect relationship of past events|
|Shows the cause-and-effect relationship of past events||The doctor had been doing her rounds when they called her to the emergency room.|
I had been sleeping for an hour before I woke up due to an earthquake.
Kurt had been working since this afternoon when her wife called him.
Past Perfect Progressive Tense Sentence Structures
The future perfect tense is used in declarative and interrogative sentences. Declarative sentences are statements that convey information and end with a period. Meanwhile, interrogative sentences seek information or clarification and are punctuated by a question mark.
The table below shows the formula for constructing declarative and interrogative sentences both in their positive and negative forms:
|Form||Positive Declarative Statement||Negative Declarative Statement||Positive Interrogative||Negative Interrogative|
|Formula:||had been + present participle or (verb + ing)||hadn’t been + present participle or (verb + ing)||had + subject + been + present participle form or (verb + ing)||hadn’t + subject + been + present participle form or (verb + ing)|
|Examples:||Maria had been practicing her speech when the lights went out. The tourist was frustrated because the airline company had been canceling her flight.||Maria hadn’t been practicing her speech when the lights went out.|
The tourist was frustrated because the airline company hadn’t been canceling her flight.
|Had Maria been practicing her speech when the lights went out?|
Had the airline company been canceling her flight, making the tourist feel frustrated?
|Hadn’t Maria been practicing her speech when the lights went out?|
Hadn’t the airline company been canceling her flight, making the tourist feel frustrated?
*Note: The contraction of “had not” in negative form is “hadn’t.”
Examples of Past Perfect Progressive Tense
Here are fifteen examples of the past perfect progressive tense in sentences:
- Hope was delighted yesterday because the series she had been watching was interesting.
- My brother had been planting in the garden all morning, so he was exhausted.
- The teacher had been lecturing about grammar when I arrived late.
- I had been running around town trying to find a gift for my mom.
- My dad had been cooking for the party since early afternoon.
- The dog hadn’t been barking since this morning.
- Zenaida hadn’t been studying for her exams since last week.
- My friends and I hadn’t been talking about our plans for a year since the summer.
- The couple hadn’t been arguing for hours when they arrived at the restaurant.
- I hadn’t been feeling well all day, so I went home early.
- Hilda hadn’t been paying her bills for months, so she was in debt.
- Had you been waiting long when the bus finally arrived?
- Had you been buying groceries using your credit card when the fraud happened?
- Hadn’t your friends been living in Taiwan before they moved here?
- Hadn’t the lady been knitting scarves since last winter?
Past Perfect Progressive Tense Exercises with Answers
Complete the sentences below with the correct form of the past perfect progressive tense.
1. The birds ____________ around the park all morning. (fly)
2. My mom ____________ me with my homework before we watched a movie. (help)
3. The museum ____________ a new exhibit before last week. (feature)
4. We ____________ the house for days when my grandparents visited. (decorate)
5. The professor ____________about ancient history for an hour when I arrived. (speak)
6. The mechanic ____________ the car’s engine for hours at five in the evening. (adjust)
7. My dad ____________ around the world for months before he returned home. (sail)
8. I ____________ the handheld vacuum when its battery died. (use)
9. Bianca ____________ soundly before the loud noise woke him up. (sleep)
10. My sister ____________ every day for a month before she stopped. (exercise)
1. The birds had been flying around the park all morning.
2. My mom had been helping me with my homework before we watched a movie.
3. The museum had been featuring a new exhibit before last week.
4. We had been decorating the house for days when my grandparents visited.
5. The professor had been speaking about ancient history for an hour when I arrived.
6. The mechanic had been adjusting the car’s engine for hours at five in the evening.
7. My dad had been sailing around the world for months before he returned home.
8. I had been using the handheld vacuum when its battery died.
9. Bianca had been sleeping soundly before the loud noise woke him up.
10. My sister had been exercising every day for a month before she stopped.
Past Perfect Progressive Tense List
|Past Perfect Progressive Tense List|
|had been playing||had been living|
|had been moving||had been helping|
|had been adjusting||had been flying|
|had been watching||had been making|
|had been knitting||had been writing|
|had been sliding||had been using|
|had been speaking||had been imagining|
|had been featuring||had been balancing|
|had been trying||had been gardening|
|had being trying||had been exercising|
|had been listening||had been sleeping|
|had been guessing||had been carrying|
|had been searching||had been praying|
|had been babbling||had been singing|
|had been laughing||had been hunting|
|had been driving||had being training|
|had been working||had been understanding|
|had been walking||had been teaching|
|had been jogging||had been advertising|
|had been waiting||had been eating|
|had been jumping||had been reading|
|had been swimming||had been traveling|
|had been knocking||had been sailing|
|had been decorating||had being traveling|
|had been calculating||had been running|
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.
First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.
Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.
Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.
Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.
Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.
Common Mistakes Made by English Learners
Learning a new language can be difficult, and English is no exception. Even experienced English learners make mistakes when speaking or writing in the language. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by English learners:
|Common Mistake||Why it Happens||Correction||Examples|
|Tense switching||There are twelve tenses in English, and learners are prone to switch tenses when narrating. They might also find the future tense confusing.||. Remember to use one tense in writing or speech to ensure the coherence of your statement.|
When describing actions that started and continued in the past, stick to the past perfect tense.
|Tense Switching: The teacher had been explaining mitosis when the principal entered the classroom. Her students were listening to her attentively.|
Consistent Tense: The teacher had been explaining mitosis when the principal entered the classroom. Her students had been listening to her attentively.
|Omitting a time reference indicating the deadline of a future action||The simple tense is the basic verb tense. It doesn’t always require a time reference. Prior to learning about the past perfect progressive tense, this is the first subject that students study. Hence, learners might omit the time reference when using the future perfect tense.||The perfect tense indicates that an action is finished within a specific time frame. Placing a time reference to show the completion or deadline of an occurrence is salient in the past perfect progressive tense. The common signals for time reference are by, when, and before.||Omitting timeframe: I had been recording my expenses.|
With time frame: I had been recording my expense for six months by July.
Learning Strategies and Best Practices for Past Perfect Progressive
A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:
|Reading||Use flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning. Search for a material that contains a translation of common expressions from your native language to English. Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.|
|Listening||Listen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words. Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech. Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.|
|Viewing||Observe how native speakers speak and try to mimic it. Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials. Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.|
|Speaking||Join a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback. Integrate the language into your daily life and try to speak using English. Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate clubs, theatre groups)|
|Writing||Write a journal of your learning journey in English. Answer practice tests and create your own sentences. Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.|
Past Perfect Progressive Tense Frequently Asked Questions
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