Past perfect continuous (I had been doing)

Learn and practise the past perfect continuous.

A Study this example situation:

yesterday morning

Yesterday morning I got up and looked out of the window. The sun was shining, but the ground was very wet.

It had been raining.

It was not raining when I looked out of the window.
The sun was shining. But it had been raining before.

had been -ing is the past perfect continuous:

past perfect

Some more examples:

  • My hands were dirty because I’d been repairing my bike.
  • Tom was tired when he got home. He’d been working hard all day.
  • I went to Madrid a few years ago and stayed with a friend of mine. She hadn’t been living there very long, but she knew the city very well.

You can say that something had been happening before something else happened:

  • We’d been playing tennis for about half an hour when it started to rain heavily.
B Compare have been -ing (present perfect continuous) and had been -ing (past perfect continuous):

present perfect continuous vs past perfect continuous

  • I hope the bus comes soon. I’ve been waiting for 20 minutes. (before now)
  • At last the bus came. I’d been waiting for 20 minutes. (before the bus came)
  • James is out of breath. He’s been running. (= he has been …)
  • James was out of breath. He’d been running. (= he had been …)
C Compare was -ing (past continuous) and had been -ing:

  • It wasn’t raining when we went out. The sun was shining. But it had been raining, so the ground was wet.
  • Katherine was lying on the sofa. She was tired because she’d been working hard.
D Some verbs (for example, know) are not normally used in continuous forms (be + -ing):

  • We were good friends. We had known each other for years. (not had been knowing)
  • A few years ago Lisa cut her hair really short. I was surprised because she’d always had long hair. (not she’d been having)