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Welcome to this week's writing lesson from

 MyEnglishTeacher.net

What had you been doing?  

Lesson Topic:
The Past Perfect Progressive.

If you read our lesson about the past perfect, you will remember that the past perfect is used for two actions that happened in the past.  However, these two actions did NOT happen at the same time; one activity happened before the other.  
Before Jackie got home, it had rained.

What happened first?  What happened second?

First: It rained

Second: Jackie got home.  

The first of the two activities uses the past perfect.  

What if you want to know how long that first activity happened?  If you want to know how long the activity happened, or if you want to express the duration of the activity, you can use the past perfect progressive.  

Before Jackie got home, it had been raining for 3 hours..

So, how do you make the present perfect progressive?  Good question!  Here's how you make it:

It had been raining
subject + had + been

+

verb with -ing

 

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When the past perfect progressive answers a how-long question, it often uses the words for and since.

The kids were very tired because they had been playing baseball since early this morning.

-OR-

The kids were very tired because they had been playing baseball for 5 hours.

Notice that it is not necessary to use the words before and after when using the past perfect progressive.

If you want to say that the first activity was happening very close to the second activity, you may use the past perfect progressive.  

The two corporate CEOs were very excited because they had been negotiating a big business plan.

There is one more thing you must remember: some verbs usually do NOT have -ing.  For example, we say I know you.  We would never say I am knowing you.  That's because know canNOT have -ing.  Verbs that cannot have -ing are called stative verbs.  Here is a list of stative verbs.  The words on the following list rarely have -ing.  Therefore, they are rarely used with the past perfect progressive.

STATIVE VERBS

know understand owe possess be
have* belong contain equal resemble
tend perceive suppose believe decide
conclude prefer love like seem
*have with the meaning of possession: I have a pen.

Because these verbs cannot be used with the past perfect progressive, you can just use the past perfect with since or for:

INCORRECT

Before you told me the news about Phil's car, I had been knowing about it for 2 days.
CORRECT Before you told me the news about Phil's car, I had known about it for 2 days.

 

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Quiz time

Directions: Put the two activities together in one sentence by using the past perfect progressive.  Make sure you use the time information.  You may add words, such as because or after.  There may be more than one answer.  The first one has been done for you.

1. First: It snowed all morning.

    Second: The kids went outside to make a snowman.

     Answer: Before the kids went outside, it had been snowing all morning. 

2. First: She loved him for a year.

    Second: They had their first date.

3. First: I studied French for 2 years.

    Second: I visited France. 

4. First: Trudy drove for 12 straight hours.

    Second: She had an accident.

5. First: The doctor was trained for 4 years.

    Second: He opened his own office.

6.  First: I believed you.

    Second: Sam told me the truth.  

7. First: Diane watched TV all afternoon.

    Second: Her eyes were itchy.  

8. First: Columbus sailed for more than 2 months.

    Second: He and his 90 sailors saw North America.

9. First: It rained a long time.

    Second: Robin's clothes were wet.

10. First: Raw meat was on the table for a week.

     Second: The house stunk. 

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Answers are in red.

1. First: It snowed all morning.

    Second: The kids went outside to make a snowman.

     Answer: Before the kids went outside, it had been snowing all morning. 

2. First: She loved him for a year.

    Second: They had their first date.

     Answer: She had loved him for a year before they had their first date. (Love is a stative verb.)

3. First: I studied French for 2 years.

    Second: I visited France. 

     Answer:  I finally visited France.  I had been studying French for 2 years. 

4. First: Trudy drove for 12 straight hours.

    Second: She had an accident.

     Answer: Trudy had an accident because she had been driving for 12 straight hours. 

5. First: The doctor was trained for 4 years.

    Second: He opened his own office.

     Answer: The doctor had been training for 4 years before he opened his own office. 

6.  First: I believed you.

    Second: Sam told me the truth.  

     Answer: I had believed you until Sam told me the truth. (Believe is a stative verb.)

7. First: Diane watched TV all afternoon.

    Second: Her eyes were itchy.  

     Answer: Diane's eyes were itchy. She had been watching TV all afternoon. 

8. First: Columbus sailed for more than 2 months.

    Second: He and his 90 sailors saw North America.

     Answer: Columbus had been sailing for more than 2 months before he and his 90 sailors saw North America. 

9. First: It rained a long time.

    Second: Robin's clothes were wet.

     Answer: Robin's clothes were wet. It had been raining a long time.

10. First: Raw meat was on the table for a week.

     Second: The house stunk. 

     Answer: The house stunk because raw meat had been on the table for a week. (Be is a stative verb.)

 

  Rules to Remember!

1 When using the past perfect progressive, you do not have to use the word before because the past perfect progressive already expresses one activity happened before another.  It is common to keep the two past actions in separate sentences. 

     Robin's clothes were wet. It had been raining a long time.

2 The past perfect progressive answers how-long questions about the first of two past activities. 

     Albert: Before Jackie got home, it had rained.

     Susie:  Oh, really?  How long?

     Albert:  It had been raining 3 hours before Jackie got home.

3 We recommend you look at our other lessons related to the past perfect progressive to get a thorough understanding of the differences in the grammar:

     Past perfect

     Present perfect

     Present perfect progressive

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