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

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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 , then you can click it!
to base form

( verb)

Select the tenses.

Present Tenses

Simple Present Tense The simple present tense is mostly used to describe facts and habits. More...(opens new tab) I base form you base form he/she/it 3rd pers sing present we base form you base form they base form Present Progressive Tense The present progressive tense is used for an ongoing action in the present. More...(opens new tab) I am present participle you are present participle he/she/it is present participle we are present participle you are present participle they are present participle Present Perfect Tense The present perfect tense is used for actions that began in the past. (Often, the actions continue into the present.) More...(opens new tab) I have past participle you have past participle he/she/it has past participle we have past participle you have past participle they have past participle Present Perfect Progressive Tense The present perfect progressive tense is used for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present, or a continuous activity that began in past but has now finished (usually very recently). More...(opens new tab) I have been present participle you have been present participle he/she/it has been present participle we have been present participle you have been present participle they have been present participle

Past Tenses

Simple Past The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that happened in the past. More...(opens new tab) I past tense you past tense he/she/it past tense we past tense you past tense they past tense Past Progressive Tense The past progressive tense is used to describe an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action. More...(opens new tab) I was present participle you were present participle he/she/it was present participle we were present participle you were present participle they were present participle Past Perfect Tense The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place. More...(opens new tab) I had past participle you had past participle he/she/it had past participle we had past participle you had past participle they had past participle Past Perfect Progressive Tense The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an ongoing action in the past has ended. More...(opens new tab) I had been present participle you had been present participle he/she/it had been present participle we had been present participle you had been present participle they had been present participle

Future Tenses

Simple Future The simple future tense is used for an action that will occur in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will base form you will base form he/she/it will base form we will base form you will base form they will base form Future Progressive Tense The future progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will occur in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will be present participle you will be present participle he/she/it will be present participle we will be present participle you will be present participle they will be present participle Future Perfect Tense The future perfect tense is used to describe an action that will have been completed at some point in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will have past participle you will have past participle he/she/it will have past participle we will have past participle you will have past participle they will have past participle Future Perfect Progressive Tense The future perfect progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will have been present participle you will have been present participle he/she/it will have been present participle we will have been present participle you will have been present participle they will have been present participle

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