In my grammar book I have 2 right options of past tense usage for one sentence:

  1. He knocked and rang for some time before he made himself heard.

  2. He had knocked and had rung for some time before he made himself heard.

But I thought that appropriate option would be:

  1. He had been knocking and ringing for some time before he made himself heard.

Why I am wrong and the grammar book is right?

  • The grammar book is right and so are you. All three mean different things.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30, 2017 at 15:59
  • Lambie, thanks. But why you say it means different things? Maybe it's just focuses on 3 different accents of single meaning? What are different things if you mean what you wrote ?
    – Koss M
    Sep 30, 2017 at 18:16
  • Not that 'have knocked' is present perfect, and 'had knocked' is past perfect. But the question is more about continuous tenses than about use of past perfect. You might want to update the title and keywords for your question.
    – JavaLatte
    Oct 1, 2017 at 6:02

1 Answer 1


You can specify that an activity is repeated or continuous either by using a continuous tense:

I was reading today

or by specifying the duration of the activity:

I read for three hours.

You can also use both a continuous tense and a duration clause:

I was reading for three hours.

The two sentences in the grammar book are correct, although the use of past perfect (which specifies the time relationship between two events) in the second version is not necessary as the word before specifies the time relationship between the continuous activity and the event. Your sentence is also correct, although the usage of a continuous tense is not necessary here as a duration clause for some time is present.

  • JavaLatte, perfectly clear answer, thank you a lot!
    – Koss M
    Sep 30, 2017 at 18:17
  • JavaLatte, can you help me once more? Why in my grammar book this sentence " Almost before I had shut my eyes, I felt a nudge in my side" they use past perfect, even nudge occurred first?
    – Koss M
    Sep 30, 2017 at 18:58
  • @KossM, that's very interesting, but I don't think I should answer it in a comment. I suggest that you ask a new question just about this.
    – JavaLatte
    Oct 1, 2017 at 5:59

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