Past Perfect vs. Past Perfect Continuous

There are similarities and differences between past perfect and past perfect continuous, which might cause confusion. To learn more, click here!

What is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between past perfect and past perfect continuous is that paast perfect focuses on the completion of an action while, past perfect continues centers around an action that started in the past and is still ongoing.

Uses and Comparison

1. State of Action

As mentioned earlier, past perfect talks about an action or event that is set and done in the past. Past perfect continuous talks about longer actions in the past before another action in the past.

I had written my book when she came.

Here, we are referring to an action that was finished in the past.

I had been writing my book when she came over.

Here, we are referring to an action that was in process in the past before another action happened.

2. Reported Speech

We often report what others have said. When doing so, we can use both past perfect and past perfect continuous. We also use verbs like: said, told, asked. Have a look:

She told me that you had left.

Here, we are reporting using 'past perfect.'

She said she had been sleeping less.

Here, we are reporting using past perfect continuous.

3.

When we want to talk about an action that started in the past and continued up until the starting point of another action, we use past perfect tense.

When he moved to New York, he had been working here for a couple of months.

Here, we are referring to an action being continued up until the starting point of another action.

When he moved to New York, he had worked here for a couple of months.

Here, we are just naming actions one after another.

4. Repeated Actions

There are actions or events that tend to repeat themselves several times before and still keep on happening. These actions are frequent and are can be expressed using past perfect continuous.

I had been working since March.

Here, we are referring to an action that started in the past and is going on as a routine.

I had worked since March.

Here, we are referring to an action that has recently stopped happening.

Structure

We will now cover the structure of the two tenses individually:

1. Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense is made through a certain pattern. We add the past tense of the verb 'have' which is 'had' followed by the past participle of the main verb.

She had talked too much.

They had called before.

2. Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Past perfect continuous is mde through adding the past simple of 'have,' followed by the past participle form of 'be,' and the present participle form of the main verb.

Past Form of Have Past Participle of be Present Participle of the verb
had been drinking

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