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.
The past perfect continuous tense can be affirmative, negative, interrogative affirmative, or even interrogative negative. Let’s take a look at each one now!
The affirmative statement is positive when the action confirms another one. In the past, perfect continuous allows us to confirm the previous action to see the cause.
The past perfect continuous in affirmative is formed like this:
Subject + had/have (past participle of to have) + been + present participle verb + -ing
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.
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 + ?
The past perfect continuous negative interrogative tense is also used to ask questions, but we add -not. Like this:
Had/have (past participle of to have) + -not - subject + been + present participle verb + -ing + ?
Many people confuse the past perfect continuous with the past perfect simple. However, there are a few key differences when using them.
The past perfect tense refers to an action that started in the past and finished in the past and doesn’t have a continuous form. For example:
Whereas the past perfect continuous would say,
The past perfect refers to the ending of an action. In this case, the table is built, whereas the past perfect continuous focuses on the ongoing action: the table collapsed as they were working on it.
The past perfect continuous tense is a great tense to learn. If you’re after more grammar help or need to work on your vocabulary, why not check out our page? We’ve got tons of learning tools to help you along the way!