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

 

1.  Past Perfect Continuous states actions or events that are still in progress up to a point in time in the past, while Past Perfect states actions or events that are completed.  The emphasis is on the result when using the past perfect tense; while, the emphasis is on the activity when using the past perfect continuous.

 

For example:

When we arrived at the auditorium, the kids had already sung Christmas Carol.

=> Past perfect emphasizes a complete action before another action occurred.

 

When we arrived at the auditorium, the kids had been singing Christmas Carol for five minutes. 

=> Past perfect continuous emphasizes an action in progress when another action occurred.   

 

He had tried to change the outcome.  (The emphasis is on the result)

He had been trying to change the outcome.  (The emphasis is on the activity)

 

 

2.  Past perfect continuous indicates a more temporary short term event while past perfect indicates a more permanent complete event

 

For example:

When we saw Jane, she had written her first novel.

When we met Jane, she had been writing her first novel for the past few weeks. 

 

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3.  Non-continuous verbs cannot be used in the past perfect continuous tense. 

  

For example:

I had meant to warn him about the snow before he left the house.

I had been meaning to warn him about the snow before he left the house.  (X)

 

I had purchased the bed frame before I purchased the mattress.

I had been purchasing the bed frame before I purchased the mattress.  (X)

 

This sofa had belonged to me for years before I sold it to Jim.

This sofa had been belonging to me for years before I sold it to Jim.  (X)

 

See details for Past Perfect at http://elisaenglish.pixnet.net/blog/post/2857604 and Past Perfect Continuous at http://elisaenglish.pixnet.net/blog/post/2737022

 

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