This post will show you how to use the Past Perfect Progressive (also called the Past Perfect Continuous). To see how to form the Past Perfect Progressive, click here.
The Past Perfect Progressive expresses the relationship in time between two past events, similar to the Past Perfect. However, the Past Perfect Progressive emphasizes that the first event was ongoing and continued up to or just before the second event.
Tomomi had been studying all night. (Past Perfect Progressive, 1st event)
She was exhausted at breakfast. (Past Simple, 2nd event)
For and since often show how long a situation lasted before the second past event.
Chris left his office at 6:00 pm. (Past Simple, 2nd event)
He‘d been workingsince 8:00 am. (Past Perfect Progressive, 1st event)
The Past Perfect Progressive is often used in sentences using past time clauses.
Michelle had been working for nine and a half hours (Past Perfect Progressive, 1st event)
by the time she left her office. (Past Simple, 2nd event)
Certain common verbs can be used with the Past Perfect and the Past Perfect Progressive with little or no difference in meaning, but using the Progressive can show a more intense or emotional situation.
Mr. Garcia had lived there since 1982. (Past Perfect)
Mr. Garcia had been living there since 1982. (Past Perfect Progressive)
I’d waited an hour (neutral)
I’d been waiting an hour. (I was so mad!)
The Past Perfect can express a completed action that may or may not have happened recently. In contrast, the Past Perfect Progressive suggests that an action was continuing up to or ended just before a specific time in the past.
Janice had watered the garden before I arrived. (She may have watered it a few minutes or many hours before I arrived.)
Janice had been watering the garden before I arrived. (She watered the garden a few minutes before I arrived. The ground was still wet.)
We do not use the Past Perfect Progressive to tell how many times an action is repeated.
I’d read it three times before. (Correct)
I’d been reading it three times before. (Incorrect)
Both the Past Perfect and the Past Perfect Progressive are used to provide background information about earlier events. They are used to give reasons with because, express contrasts with although or even though, and are used to draw conclusions.
She looked very tired because she had been studying all night. (Reason)
She looked very tired because she had studied all night. (Reason)
She looked very tired although she had been sleeping for 12 hours. (Contrast)
She looked very tired although she had slept for 12 hours. (Contrast)
I realized that he had been criticizing my work. (Conclusion)
I realized that he had criticized my work. (Conclusion)
This post will show you how to use the Past Progressive (also called the Past Continuous). To see how to form the Past Progressive, click here.
We use the Past Progressive to talk about activities that were in progress (happening) at a specific time in the past. This may be an exact moment in the past or a longer period of time.
It wasn’t rainingat lunch time, it was snowing.
You were acting weird last night.
I was studying in Brasilia in 2010.
The Past Progressive expresses an ongoing past activity that may or may not be completed.
At 7:00 Rodrigo was making dinner in the kitchen. (He was in the middle of making dinner and we don’t know if he finished.)
The children were building a snowman while it was snowing. (They were in the middle of building a snowman and we don’t know if they finished.)
Sentences with two past time clauses describe the order in which two past events happened. When the verbs in both the time clause and the main clause are in the Past Progressive, the events were simultaneous (happening at the same time).
When you were studying, I was working.
They were playing hockey while we were shopping.
When one verb is in the Past Simple and the other in the Past Progressive, it shows that one event interrupted the other. The event in the Past Progressive started first and was interrupted by the Past Simple event. When or while begins the time clause, which uses the Past Progressive.
While we were eating dinner, the phone rang.
She ran into Adam when she was walking to school.
The Past Progressive often appears at the beginning of a narrative to describe background activities. It can express several background activities happening at the same time as the main event. The main even is in the Past Simple.
It was raining hard outside and my roommate was taking a shower. At exactly 7:10, there was a huge clap of thunder. I jumped up as the house shook violently.
When we arrived at the stadium, the home team was winning, all the fans were cheering, and my heart was racing with excitement.
This post will show you how to use the Past Simple and Used To. To see how to form the Past Simple and Used To, click here.
We use the Past Simple to talk about a state or action that started and finished in the past. We use time expressions to describe the time period.
She lived in Tokyo in 2010.
We went to school yesterday.
They played hockey on Saturday.
Winter was cold last year.
The actions or states can happen in the recent past (a short time ago), or the distant past (a long time ago).
Recent Past Distant Past
He arrived ten minutes ago. They moved to Dubai in 2001.
She felt tired yesterday. He was very sick last year.
The actions or states can last for a short or long period of time.
Short Period of Time Long Period of Time
The rain lasted for five minutes. The rain lastedfor days.
I worked there for two weeks. I worked there for 12 years.
The actions or states can happen once, or repeatedly.
Happened Once Happened Repeatedly
He moved to Seoul in 2008. He always walked to work.
She arrived late yesterday. She always arrived late.
Used to suggests that a habit or situation was true in the past, but is not true now. We use used to for repeated or habitual actions or states that started and finished in the past. Do not use it for actions or states that happened only once. Adverbs of frequency and other time expressions with used to emphasize the repeated actions or states.
He used tosmoke, but he quit last year.
We often used to visit my grandparents before they passed away.
She used to live in Sidney before she moved to Prague.
You can use the Simple Present with time expressions to show how a present situation is different from the past.
I used to watch TV after school. Now I don’t have time for that.
People used to get their new from newspapers or the radio. Thesedays most people get their news from the internet.