Past Perfect Progressive Tense

by Craig Shrives

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

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.

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?

Infographic for the Past Perfect Progressive Tense

past perfect progressive tense
The tables below show all 12 tenses so you can see the past perfect progressive tense among the other tenses. (You can change the verb by clicking one of the green buttons.)

Top 10 Regular Verbs

Top 10 Irregular Verbs

All 4 Past Tenses

PersonSimple PastPast Progressive TensePast Perfect TensePast Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

All 4 Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Perfect TensePresent Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • base form
  • base form
  • 3rd pers sing present
  • base form
  • base form
  • base form
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am present participle
  • are present participle
  • is present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • has past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • has been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

All 4 Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Perfect TenseFuture Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

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

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See Also

See all the tenses What is a verb phrase? 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

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