Past Perfect Continuous Tense Charts & Tables in English with Rules, Usage Examples, Definitions, and Best Practices for English Learners

past perfect continuous tense chart

What is Past Perfect Continuous?

By definition, the Past Perfect Continuous is one of the four aspects or forms of a verb’s past tense. This verb tense denotes actions that progressed at some point in the past before another past action took place. When your emphasis is on an action that progressed before a specific time of occurrence in the past, you should use the past perfect continuous.

In particular, there are two distinctions where the past perfect continuous is applicable. The first is when a past action was the cause of another action in the past. The second is to signify an action that started at a particular point in the past and continued to happen until another point in that period.

The Importance of a Tense Chart in English Language Learning

A tense chart puts grammar rules into a clear sort of map. It’s a commonly utilized tool among English language students because it’s helpful, useful, and a great reference for learning the language. English has a total of 12 verb forms, but only four of those (the three simple tenses and the present continuous tense ) are often employed in daily conversation. Nonetheless, learning and using the rest of the eight tense forms can assist you with more complicated linguistic requirements, particularly in writing or speaking academically and professionally.

Moreover, because of the 12 tense forms that reference 12 distinct emphatic time periods, the grammar guidelines can often become confusing. For instance, the statement “They’re closing the library early.” indicates a forthcoming event but is stated in the present tense. Similarly, the statement “They will close the library early.” carries the same meaning. Either way, both sentences are grammatically correct and express the same idea. Additionally, the sentence “They will have closed the library early.” signifies a similar event, yet it’s in a different tense and is rarely used conversationally.

Verb tense charts like the ones you’ll read in this article can help you learn about tense usage and its applications in real-life situations. They’re comprehensive, clear, and easy to follow, which provide various sentence structures, verb forms, and practical examples. It’s an effective way to improve your understanding of tense usage and its application in everyday communication.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Formula and Examples

Let’s take an overview of the fundamental rules of past perfect continuous tense:

Verb Tense Structure Chart

TenseRule and FormulaExample
Past Perfect ContinuousSubject + had been + present participle form of the verb (-ing form) + the rest of the sentenceRyu had been using my laptop.

Past Perfect Continuous in Sentence Examples

  • They had been cleaning the shed before the delivery van arrived.
  • Marcus had been training in the dojo for 3 months before he advanced.
  • He had been chugging milk straight out of the bottle when Mom walked in.
  • The group had been hiking 6 kilometers before blisters appeared on Devin’s feet.
  • Chad had been asking Leah out for almost a year before she agreed to go on a date.
  • The luggage service that the motel terminated had been functioning well since last year.
  • We had been trekking cross country for an hour when the military helicopter flew overhead.
  • Nigel had been working as a paralegal for 24 months when the firm agreed to pay for law school.
  • Clay had been flashing his headlights for 10 minutes before Duke stepped out from behind the trees.
  • Gavin had been working at the organization for only 2 years when he got promoted to supervisor.

Past Perfect Continuous Uses Chart and Examples

Besides the typical use of pertaining to an ongoing event or action in a specific time frame in the past, there are two other distinctions of use for the past perfect continuous tense. Study the other past perfect continuous tense usage in the chart below:

Past Perfect Continuous Usage Chart

Past actions that caused another action in the past.Beedah was exhausted as she had been traveling non-stop for a week.
Past actions that progressed at some prior period of time until another action happened or interrupted it.I had been cooking for over an hour before Sue entered the kitchen to tell me I missed a few steps.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Use

1. To talk about an action that brought about another action in the past

  • Ronnie had been waiting for them for an hour so he was quite angry.
  • They had been preparing for the banquet so they missed my phone calls.
  • Maxine was sweating profusely because she had been cleaning the house all day.
  • Tricia had been writing the report by herself so she didn’t credit her group members.
  • The reason Sejong was happy was that she had been picking tangerines on the farm.
  • Because there were too many members, Jack had been having difficulty with the choreography.

2. To signify an ongoing action in the past until another action took place

  • Jake had been hanging laundry for an hour before his wife called.
  • We had been debating whether to call the police when the burglar emerged.
  • The restaurant had been operating disastrously for months before it shut down.
  • Roseanne had been researching geological digs for 4 years before she moved to town.
  • I had been waiting to hear from human resources before I considered other companies.
  • My friends and I had been living in the same apartment for 3 months when he had to leave due to mold problems.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Chart with Different Sentence Structures

The past perfect continuous tense isn’t only conjugated based on time references or time expressions but is also further conjugated depending on the structure of sentences. Study the structure in the following chart.

(Important: In conversational English, native speakers normally use contractions i.e She hadn’t been feeling well. or Hadn’t they been dancing at the club for a while now? Spelling it out as had not is also correct, but this is usually reserved for formal language use.)

Past Perfect Continuous Sentence Structure Guide Chart

Sentence StructureFormulaExample
AffirmativeSubject + Had been + Present participle (verb + ing) + Object (or the rest of the sentence)Ban had been coding all afternoon yesterday.
NegativeSubject + Hadn’t been + Present participle (verb + ing) + Object (or the rest of the sentence)Josh hadn’t been waiting for her as she expected.
Interrogative (affirmative)Had+ Subject + Been + Present participle form (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence?Had Judith been living out in the woods?
Interrogative (negative)Hadn’t + Subject + Been + Present participle (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence?Hadn’t they been reviewing the progressive tense types that their teacher assigned?
Interrogative with Question WordQuestion word + had + Subject (at times unnecessary with the question word “who”) + Been + Present participle (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence?Why had Lyka been dancing alone for the past half hour?

More Past Perfect Continuous Tense Examples in Different Sentence Structures

1. Affirmative Sentence

Formula for Affirmative/Positive Sentences
Subject + Had been + Present participle (verb + ing) + Object (or the rest of the sentence)

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Positive Sentences:

  • The kids had been helping their mom with the Christmas preparations.
  • I had been keeping the secret for two weeks when my friends figured it out.
  • Robert had been cleaning the roof for two hours when Django arrived to help.
  • Georgie wasn’t surprised because he had been expecting them to host a party.
  • Anna Mae had been varnishing her painting when the pizza guy rang the doorbell.
  • We had been hosting researchers for 5 years before the government recognized our efforts.

2. Negative Sentence

Formula for Negative Sentences
Subject + Hadn’t been + Present participle (verb + ing) + Object (or the rest of the sentence)

Past Perfect Continuous Negative Tense Examples:

  • Kellyn hadn’t been brushing up on the subject of astronomy.
  • Samson was shocked because he hadn’t been watching the news.
  • They hadn’t been asking about what will happen at school tomorrow.
  • You hadn’t been keeping your end of the bargain since the deal was struck.
  • My junior English class hadn’t been learning perfect tenses as quickly as I hoped.
  • Decker had a low test score because he hadn’t been listening to the teacher’s lecture on the simple future tense.

3. Interrogative (affirmative)

Formula for Interrogative Affirmative Sentences
Had + Subject + Been + Present participle (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence?

Past Perfect Continuous Tense Interrogative Examples:

  • Had Dennis been trapping fireflies in the backyard for 3 days?
  • Had Melanie and Tomas been grilling meat since the dinner began?
  • Had you been washing the dishes for a long time before we came by?
  • Had Edward been changing the topic when people brought up Yoona’s name?
  • Had Principal Wheaton been updating the webpage if we have school tomorrow?
  • Had Mom been shopping for fresh produce at Yolanda Market since we moved here?

4. Interrogative (negative)

Formula for Interrogative Negative Sentences
Hadn’t + Subject + Been + Present participle (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence?

Negative Interrogative Sentence Examples:

  • Hadn’t you been sleeping all day long?
  • Hadn’t her family been traveling for weeks?
  • Hadn’t Kyle been working reception for 6 months?
  • Hadn’t Raja been laughing for hours at that show?
  • Hadn’t Krishna been trying to light a bonfire all afternoon?
  • Hadn’t they been eating the cake since we left for the store?

5. Interrogative with Question Word

Formula for Interrogative Sentences with Question Words
Question word + Had + Subject (at times unnecessary with the question word “who”) + Been + Present participle (verb + ing) + rest of the sentence?

Past perfect continuous tense question examples with Question Words:

  • Where had the kids been hiding from 2 to 4 pm?
  • Who had been keeping the candy since last week?
  • Why had Lyka been practicing on the piano all morning?
  • What had Larry been preparing for since summer began?
  • Who had Karla been talking to so seriously for the last 2 hours?
  • How had the team been working out since the school gym flooded?

English Perfect Continuous


A comprehensive guide to tense usage in English is an essential tool for any learner of English. Utilizing the charts in this article will bring great benefits to your language-learning journey. In addition to providing a thorough explanation of the past perfect continuous tense in this article, our blog also includes a number of other dedicated pages for all and each of the 12 tenses, which are designed to help you improve your understanding of tense. Tense as you know refers to the typical and commonly thought as definite times of speech (past, present, future), their conjugations (simple tense, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous), and the more advanced concept of moods: indicative (statements and questions), subjunctive (state of being), and imperative (commands or requests). Students who make use of our blog will learn how to identify tense forms correctly and apply them appropriately in various situations. You will also gain insight into the differences between different sentence structures and understand why these formulas or formats are used differently in certain contexts. More than that, you are exposed to authentic or practical sentence examples which you may apply and customize in your own chart creations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 10 examples of past perfect continuous?

1. Where had she been hiding all these years?
2. Sirens had been echoing in the area last night.
3. How had they been living since their parents passed?
4. Hadn’t you been listening to the same album all morning?
5. What had been keeping you busy when you stayed in Majorca?
6. Harry had been taking medicine because he got sick yesterday.
7. The kids had been reading their favorite book since they finished dinner.
8. Carlos had been laughing at the same joke when we asked him about it.
9. I hadn’t been sleeping in my bedroom because of the noise from the street.
10. Denise had been keeping tabs on the suspicious activity of her new neighbors.

Can you tell me how to use past perfect continuous tense verb?

Simply put, we use the past perfect continuous tense to reference events that were continuing at some period in the past. It also shows past actions, events, and conditions that became the reason another action in the past occurred. Past actions that were continuing at some previous point in time until another action happened or interrupted it can additionally be expressed with the past perfect continuous.

What is past perfect and past perfect continuous tense?

In comparison, past perfect tense verbs are generally conjugated this way: I had studied. Meanwhile, the past perfect continuous is stated in this manner: I had been studying.
When we want to talk about an action that began in the past and emphasize its completion. we use the past perfect tense.
However, if we want to show that the action was ongoing at some period in the past, we use the past perfect continuous tense. 

Can we use past perfect continuous alone?

A statement such as “She had been curing the pork.” implies an action that was continuing in a past period of time, so yes, the past perfect continuous can stand on its own without an adverbial modifier, time reference, or information about another past action to support it. As long as the implication is understood by both the speaker and listener, it won’t cause a breakdown in comprehension.

What is the formula for the past perfect tense verb?

The general formula of the past perfect tense is “Subject + have (had) + the past participle of the main verb + the rest of the sentence”. It shouldn’t be confused with the past perfect continuous tense which uses the same helping or auxiliary verb but is formatted with the present participle which is the -ing form of a verb.

What is the difference between present perfect continuous and past perfect continuous?

The difference between these tenses relies on the form of the auxiliary verb that they are used with. The present perfect continuous uses “has” or “have”, and the past perfect continuous uses “had”

english app infographic

Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! She is a personal English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating! 

For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!

Additionally, the platform incorporates goal-setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and significant cost savings compared to traditional tutoring methodologies.

At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

…it’s a whole new story!

Do you want to improve your English? Visit

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

lillypad eanglish language learning software
William Landry

William Landry

William is a professional English and ESL teacher with over 15 years of experience. He has taught students of all ages, from children to business executives, and has worked with ESL learners from all over the globe. With a degree in English Education, William has developed curriculum for learners of all levels and interests. He is passionate about helping people learn English effectively and shares his knowledge with the LillyPad community. When he’s not teaching or writing, William enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.

Related Articles

Improve your English Faster with Lilly!
An Artificial Intelligent Tutor!

Latest Posts


How long will it take you to improve your English?


Design, write and practice your own phrases or learn 3,500+ premade English phrases with Lilly!