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!
    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

    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?