Past Perfect Continuous Tense For 3-6 Graders

For ESL and grades 3-6 learners.

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The past perfect continuous is one of 12 verb tenses in English. It’s a tense that talks about the past, in the past. Sometimes, it’s all called the past perfect progressive.

Past perfect continuous tenses tell us about an action that happened in the past and continued to happen in the past; in this way, it's continuous. This tense tells us how long an action took place and how long it continued on for.

In this article, we’ll explain how the past perfect progressive works and give you plenty of examples along the way with some handy flashcard examples, so you can see how to form it yourself.

What is The Past Perfect Continuous?

  • When talking about something you did in the past that ended in the past, for example, I had been walking…
  • When telling a story about a past continued action. You’ll see adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions such as when, since, and for. These words give us extra context and add to the story.
  • The past perfect continuous tells us when an action finished in the past. In English, adverbs of time are used to do this. Such as hour, day, morning, etc.
  • When talking about the cause of another action. The past perfect progressive allows us to see the effect of another action that took place before. For example, John was tired because he had been walking for 5 hours.

Ooof he must have been tired!

How is The Past Perfect Continuous Made?

To form the past perfect continuous, we use had and been plus the present continuous form of a verb with -ing.

  1. I had been waiting for over 2 hours when he finally arrived.
  2. She had been studying when her mom came home from work.
  3. We had been playing.
  4. They had been sleeping when their house alarm went off.
  5. We had been traveling when my Grandma called.

The past perfect continuous tense can be affirmative, negative, interrogative affirmative to ask a positive question, or even interrogative negative to ask a negative question. Confused? Don't worry; let’s take a look at each one now!

Past Perfect Continuous Affirmative Tense

The affirmative statement is positive. In the past, perfect continuous tense shows how something in the past happened in the past.

The past perfect continuous in affirmative is made like this:

Subject + had/have (past participle of to have) + been + present participle verb + -ing

Past Perfect Continuous Examples

  • She had been running.
  • Gerry had been shopping when her phone rang with the bad news.
  • They had been thinking about buying a house for a long time when their daughter won the lottery.
  • Frankie had been wandering around in the toilets when the school bell rang.
  • Her water bottle was empty because she had been drinking it.
  • We had been waiting in line for hours before we were let in.

Grade-Specific Flashcard Examples

Flip through the flashcards for specific examples of the affirmative past perfect continuous for third graders up to sixth grade.

Past Perfect Continuous Negative Tense

The past perfect continuous negative has a similar structure to the affirmative. However, instead of confirming the action, it negates it or shows a negative side to it.

The past perfect continuous in negative is formed like this:

Subject + had (past participle of to have) + -not  + been + present participle verb + -ing

To make the sentence shorter, you can use contractions.

  • Had not becomes hadn’t
  • Have not becomes haven't.

Example Sentences

  • She hadn’t been running today.
  • We hadn’t been shopping for groceries, so the refrigerator was empty.
  • I hadn’t been doing my homework, so I’m not surprised I got a bad grade.
  • They hadn’t been playing for very long, so they didn’t want to go inside.
  • He hadn’t been working out in a couple of months, so he signed up for swimming classes.
  • The ground was wet. It had been raining for a couple of hours.

Past Perfect Continuous Interrogative Affirmative Tense

Interrogative statements ask questions and always have a question mark at the end. In the affirmative, the question is positive. The form is also slightly different. Let’s take a look.

Had/have (past participle of to have) + subject  + been + present participle verb + -ing + ?

Example Sentences

  • Had you been running before?
  • Had you been waiting all day for her to come?
  • Had she been laughing when the bird stole her sandwich?
  • Had she been sleeping when the fire alarm went off?
  • Had they been talking when the car crashed?

Past Perfect Continuous Interrogative Negative Tense

The past perfect continuous negative interrogative tense is also used to ask questions, but we add -not. Like this:

Had (past participle of to have) + -not - subject  + been + present participle verb + -ing + ?

Example Sentences

  • Hadn't you been calling when she rang?
  • Hadn't they been traveling when Covid-19 hit?
  • Hadn't we been giving her money before she went off to college?
  • When my teacher told me it was due, I hadn't been working on the school project.
  • Hadn’t you been studying at the time?

Conversation Starters for Practicing Past Perfect Continuous Tense: 3-6 Graders

These conversation starters are designed for students in 3rd-6th grade to practice forming the past perfect continuous tense in small groups in partner activities or at home as part of homeschooling. It's a great activity to get kids to start speaking, using specific and targeted level-appropriate grammar. Try to answer with full sentences.

3rd Grade & 4th Grade

Think of a character or think about yourself and answer the following questions using the past perfect continuous tense.

  • How had you been feeling last week?
  • How much had _____ been reading?
  • How long had it been raining?
  • What had they been eating?

Answer prompts

  • I had been...
  • They had been...
  • She had been...
  • He had been...

5th Grade

  • What had you been wishing for, for your birthday last year?
  • Had you been keeping active on your vacation?
  • Name three things that you had been doing during your vacation time. (This could be any vacation time in the past)
  • What kind of music had you been hoping to listen to?
  • Where in the world had you been hoping to visit the most?

Answer prompts

  • I had been wishing...
  • I had or hadn't been moving...
  • I had been wanting...
  • I had been hoping...

Upper 5th Grade & 6th Grade

  • What three things had you been wanting to change this year?
  • Name two things you had been wanting to learn last year, that you didn't.
  • Name five things you had been wanting since you were little.
  • What hobbies had you been thinking to try this year?

Past Perfect Continuous Quiz

Think you've got it? Try out the checkpoint quiz and fill in the sentence gaps. Got a question wrong? Press reset and try again.

1. We had been _______. (Study)

Choose the best answer from the choices below

Possible answers

2. Had the soccer players ______ playing well?

Choose the best answer from the choices below

Possible answers

3. It was surprise to be see my grandma. We _____ been expecting her.

Choose the best answer from the choices below

Possible answers

4. Had you been _______ before? (Swim)

Choose the best answer from the choices below

Possible answers

5. My dad finally answered his phone. I _______ ringing him all day!

Choose the best answer from the choices below

Possible answers

And there we have it! The past perfect continuous tense! If you want more grade-specific topics, head below and check out our other related ELA topics, resources, and digital classroom quizzes.