Past Continuous / Past Progressive vs. Past Perfect Continuous / Past Perfect Progressive (過去進行式 vs. 過去完成進行式)

 

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Past Continuous emphasizes the continuity of an action, an interrupted action in progress at a specific point in time.  Past Perfect Continuous emphasizes the duration of a past event or action up to a certain point in the past.

 

For example:

1.  When Tom arrived, Henry was talking on the phone.

=> Past continuous emphasizes at that moment when Tom arrived, Henry was talking on the phone.

 

When Tom arrived, Henry had been talking on the phone for over three hours.

=> Past perfect continuous emphasizes the duration of the talk that Henry had been talking for three hours when the event happened (Tom arrived)

 

2.  Jeremy was out of breath because he was running for the marathon. 

=> Jeremy was out the breath because at that moment he was running for the marathon.

 

Jeremy was out of breath because he had been running for the marathon since this morning. 

=> Jeremy was out the breath because he had been running for the marathon for some time.  The marathon could have been completed as we spoke or still in progress.

 

3.  I had been hiking in Yosemite National Park for two hours when the rock tumbled down.

=>  This emphasizes the duration of my hiking before the rock tumbled down.

 

I was hiking in Yosemite National Park when the rock tumbled down.

=>  This emphasizes the interrupted action – my hiking (that was going on but interrupted by the tumbling rock)

 

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