What Is the Past Perfect Progressive Tense? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an ongoing action in the past has ended. For example:
  • John had been baking a cake.
  • They had been painting the fence.

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the past perfect progressive tense:

Infographic for the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

Here is an infographic explaining the past perfect progressive tense:

past perfect progressive tense

More Examples of the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

Here are some more examples of the past perfect progressive tense (shaded):
  • She had been painting the door before the dog scratched it.
  • The jury had been considering its verdict for several hours when the judge effectively ordered them to find Jones guilty.
  • He just couldn't summon the energy. He had been working at the dock all afternoon.
  • I was coming home from kindergarten. Well, they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for ten years. (Comedian Ellen DeGeneres)
  • Many people had been asking me to write an autobiography. I thought I'd better tell my story before other people told it for me. (Comedian Michael Palin)

Forming the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

The past perfect progressive tense is formed:

[subject]
+
"had been"
+
[present participle]
  • I had been jumping.
  • They had been meeting.

Forming the Present Participle

The last word in each example above (i.e. the [verb] + "ing" part) is known as a present participle. It is formed like this:

Add "ing" to most verbs:
  • play > playing
  • shout > shouting

For verbs that end "e," remove the "e" and add "ing":
  • prepare > preparing
  • ride > riding

For verbs that end "ie," change the "ie" to "y" and add "ing":
  • lie > lying
  • untie > untying

For verbs whose last syllable is written [consonant-vowel-consonant] and is stressed, double the final consonant and add "ing":
  • run > running
  • forget > forgetting

The Negative Version

If you need the negative version, you can use the following construction:
[subject]
+
"had not been"
+
[present participle]
  • She had not been painting the door.
  • The jury had not been considering its verdict for very long when the judge effectively ordered them to find Jones guilty.
  • He had plenty of energy. He had not been working at the dock at all that afternoon.
Remember that "had not" is sometimes written as the contraction "hadn't."

The Question Version

If you need to ask a question, you can use the following word order for a yes/no question:
"had"
+
[subject]
+
"been"
+
[present participle]
  • Had she been painting the door?
  • Had the jury been considering its verdict for very long when the judge ordered them to find Jones guilty?
  • Why was he so tired? Had he been working at the dock all afternoon?
You can use the following word order for a question-word question:
[question word]
+
"had"
+
[subject]
+
"been"
+
[present participle]
  • When had she been painting the door?
  • Why was he so tired? Why had he been working at the dock all afternoon?

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 , you can click it!

The Other Past Tenses

The past perfect progressive tense is one of four past tenses. This table shows all four of the past tenses:
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

Slider Showing All the Tenses

The following slider shows all 12 tenses. The past perfect progressive tense is highlighted with a yellow background.
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

Tenses Take a test on the past perfect progressive tense Simple past tense Past progressive tense Past perfect tense Simple present tense Present progressive tense Present perfect tense Present perfect progressive tense Simple future tense Future progressive tense Future perfect tense Future perfect progressive tense