What Is the Perfect Progressive Aspect? (with Examples)

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Perfect Progressive Aspect

The perfect progressive aspect (or "perfect continuing aspect" as it's sometimes called) is the aspect of a verb that expresses the end of an ongoing action.

In other words, "perfect progressive aspect" is the collective term for verbs (in the past tense, present tense, or future tense) in a perfect progressive tense.

The "Perfect Progressive (or Perfect Continuing) Aspect" Verbs

There are 12 tenses in total. The table below shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "perfect progressive aspect" tenses are highlighted in yellow.
The "Simple Aspect" TensesExamples
The simple aspect is used to describe facts and habits.
Simple Present Tense
  • The octopus eats small crabs.
  • Simple Past Tense
  • The octopus ate small crabs.
  • Simple Future Tense
  • The octopus will eat small crabs.
  •   
    The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The progressive aspect expresses ongoing actions.
    Present Progressive Tense
  • The octopus is eating small crabs.
  • Past Progressive Tense
  • The octopus was eating small crabs.
  • Future Progressive Tense
  • The octopus will be eating small crabs.
  •   
    The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect aspect expresses completed actions.
    Present Perfect Tense
  • The octopus has eaten small crabs.
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • The octopus had eaten small crabs.
  • Future Perfect Tense
  • The octopus will have eaten small crabs.
  •   
    The "Perfect Progressive Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect progressive aspect expresses the end of an ongoing action.
    Present Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The octopus has been eating small crabs.
  • Past Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The octopus had been eating small crabs.
  • Future Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The octopus will have been eating small crabs.
  • Slider Showing Verbs in the Perfect Progressive Aspect

    The following slider shows all 12 tenses. The perfect progressive tenses (i.e., those in the perfect progressive aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.

    Examples of Verbs in the Perfect Progressive Aspect

    Verbs in the perfect progressive aspect are recognizable by the word "have" (in one of its forms), "been," and a present participle (i.e., the word that ends "-ing"). Here are some examples of verbs in the perfect progressive aspect.

    In the Past Tense
    • She had been dancing.
    • (past perfect progressive tense)
    • We had been fishing.
    • (past perfect progressive tense)
    In the Present Tense
    • I have been playing.
    • (present perfect progressive tense)
    • She has been swimming.
    • (present perfect progressive tense)
    In the Future Tense
    • They will have been flying.
    • (future perfect progressive tense)
    • She will have been acting.
    • (future perfect progressive tense)

    Forming the Perfect Progressive Aspect

    The perfect progressive aspect is formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "to have," "been," and the present participle. For example:

    Forming the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

    "had"
    +
    "been"
    +
    [present participle]
    • We had been writing.
    Forming the Present Perfect Progressive Tense

    "has" or "have"
    +
    "been"
    +
    [present participle]
    • She has been diving.
    • They have been eating.
    Forming the Future Perfect Progressive Tense

    "will have"
    +
    "been"
    +
    [present participle]
    • He will have been driving.

    Verb Tenses Showing the Perfect Progressive Aspect

    Here are the 12 tenses again. This time, the tenses are ordered under the headings past tense, present tense, and future tense. As before, the tenses in the perfect progressive aspect are shaded in yellow.
    The 4 Past Tenses Example
    simple past tense I went
    past progressive tense I was going
    past perfect tense I had gone
    past perfect progressive tense I had been going
    The 4 Present Tenses Example
    simple present tense I go
    present progressive tense I am going
    present perfect tense I have gone
    present perfect progressive tense I have been going
    The 4 Future Tenses Example
    simple future tense I will go
    future progressive tense I will be going
    future perfect tense I will have gone
    future perfect progressive tense I will have been going

    Verb Tense Widget

    Use this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!

    Why Should I Care about the Perfect Progressive Aspect?

    If you're learning or teaching English, you must spend time learning the tenses because expressing when something occurs is a fundamental skill when communicating. Remember that tenses do not just state whether an action is a past, present, or future one. Tenses also state whether an action is habitual, completed, or ongoing. (These are called the aspects of the tenses.).

    Here's a good tip to help you with mastering the tenses: Concentrate on the following:
    • The verb "to be" in all its forms (am, is, are, was, were, will be)
    • The verb "to have" in all its forms (has, have, had, will have)
    • Present participles, i.e., the "ing" form of verbs (e.g., dancing, knowing, eating)
    • Past participles (e.g., danced, known, eaten)
    Interactive Exercise
    Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

    See Also

    What is aspect? What are the progressive tenses? What are the perfect progressive tenses? What is the past progressive tense? What is the present progressive tense? What is the future progressive tense? What is the past perfect progressive Tense? What is the present perfect progressive tense? What is the future perfect progressive tense?