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Past Perfect Continuous Tense - Questions

We learned in the previous lessons that the past perfect continuous is used in two ways.

1. We use the past perfect continuous to emphasize what action or event happened first in the past. It can also be used to talk about something that continued for a period of time in the past.
  • I had been sitting alone for a long time when a pretty girl came up to me.
  • It had been raining.
2. We use the past perfect continuous tense to give a cause or reason for something in the past.
  • He was excited because he had been looking forward to the game all week.
In the previous lesson, we studied sentences. In this lesson, we will learn how to make questions.

Just like the past perfect, the most common question used with past perfect continuous verb tense starts with "How long".

How long + had + subject + been + verb(-ing)...?
  • How long had you been waiting when he finally came?
  • How long had she been learning English when she moved to America?
  • How long had they been dating when they broke up?
We can use other question words instead of "How long".
  • What had you been doing before we came?
  • What food had you been eating before you got sick?
  • Where had you been going when you saw him?
Remember that the question pattern changes if "who", "what", or the noun in "How many + noun" is the subject of the question.
  • Who had been teaching the class before you started?
  • What had been happening before we arrived?
  • How many people had been playing before it started to rain?
We can also make yes/no questions. These start with the word "Had".

Had + subject + been + verb(-ing)...?
  • Had you been waiting long before the train arrived?
  • Had you been talking to him long when I saw you two?
We can use a question like this when we are using the past perfect continuous to show a cause in the past.
  • Were you tired because you had been exercising?
  • Was he angry because we had been scolding him?
Here is some extra practice.

Example Questions and Answers

A) How long had you been waiting for us?
B) I had been waiting for about an hour.

A) How long had he been learning English before he started working as an international salesman?
B) For a long time.

A) How long had she been living in New York before she moved to San Francisco?
B) I think she had lived in New York for 2 years before moving to San Francisco.

A) What had he been doing before we came?
B) I'm not sure. I think he had been sleeping.

A) Who had been stealing your lunch?
B) I found out that Bill had been stealing my lunch.

A) Had it been raining when you came?
B) No. It was beautiful outside when I came.

A) Had it been working well the last time that you saw it?
B) Yes, it had been working perfectly the last time I saw it.

A) Were you tired the last time I saw you because you had been working too much?
B) Yes, but now I am working less. So, I feel much better.

Learn to speak better English and improve your English grammar by simply doing this basic practice exercise. First, complete the questions with your own answers, and then practice making your own questions. Finally, try using this grammar in real life.

Tip: Say the questions aloud. This will help you practice speaking English and improve your pronunciation and fluency.

How long had you been _______________ before _______________?
How long had he been _______________ before _______________?
How long had _______________ been _______________?
Who had been _______________?
What had he been _______________ before _______________?
Had you been _______________?
Were you tired because you had been _______________?
Was he angry because we had been _______________?

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