Mr. Louise was asking after the health of my brother who has been suffering from typhoid for the past few weeks.

I have a question about the bold part. Should it be has been or had been?

Case 1: When I'm telling this, it has been a few weeks of my brother's illness and Mr. Louise asked about him sometime during that period. So it would be has been suffering.

Case 2: Mr. Louise asked after his health when it was already few weeks past since the beginning of the ailment. So in this case it should be had been suffering.

Am I thinking right or not?

  • Your thinking is correct! The present perfect continuous is appropriate in Case 1, abd the past perfect continuous is appropriate in Case 2. Oct 30, 2016 at 21:18
  • @Mari-LouA Louise is also a surname, and it is not idiomatic to use an honorific with a given name... Oct 30, 2016 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


If your brother continues to suffer, has been suffering.

If your brother is cured, or if he died, had been suffering.

  • I have a question : Consider the first sentense. The period of suffering, i.e. from past few weeks to that times of asking, is given. Hence we can not use the past continuous form was suffering ?
    – HK Lee
    Feb 12, 2020 at 10:22
  • The past continuous was suffering makes no statement regarding the relationship of the past ongoing condition to the present state of affairs. It can be used there. Why did you give the patient botox treaments? --Because he was suffering from migraine headaches. The patient, at the time that question was posed to the doctor, could be alive or dead, still suffering from migraines or cured of them. The verb form was suffering simply does not address the present in any way; nor does it address a time later than that past, a more recent past.
    – TimR
    Feb 13, 2020 at 14:04
  • With I gave the patient botox treatments because he was suffering from migraine headaches the botox treatments and the migraine headaches belong to the same time context. They are coeval. With I gave the patient botox treaments because he had been suffering from migraine headaches the botox treatment is presented as something which the headaches predated. The headaches were a presenting condition and treatment followed after.
    – TimR
    Feb 13, 2020 at 14:12

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