I was really tired because I had been working late the night before.

I want to show cause and effect. If I say instead

I was really tired because I worked late the night before.

does that change the meaning or feel in any way?


2 Answers 2


Your first example is grammatically incorrect. "Had been" is the past perfect continuous form. It describes something that happened in the past from the perspective of it having not yet finished. You cannot use this form at all because getting tired was a consequence of the entire action (working late) rather than something that occured during that past action. To use the past perfect continuous form you would need to create a definitive reference that caused the condition because the continuous action, uncompleted, could not have yet caused the condition.

I was really tired because I had been working late and had to move twenty bags of chicken feed.

Your second example is also grammatically incorrect. It should be written with the past perfect simple form to describe a condition in the past that occured as a result of something that was completed in the past.

I'm assuming that the first part of your sentence is intentional; that you're discussing something that occured in the past (being tired) that was caused by something even more distant in the past (working).

I was really tired because I had worked late the night before.

If, on the other hand, you are trying to describe a current condition caused by a past event, you need to use the past simple form.

I am really tired because I worked late last night.

  • Okay, how would you explain this example from a grammar book: it was so difficult to get up last Monday. I had been working on my essays the night before and I was very tired.
    – anouk
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:14
  • That's the past perfect continuous, like my first example. While doing something in the past (working on my essays) something happened (I became tired), and because of that, a consequence in the past (difficult to get up last Monday).
    – JBH
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:23
  • I think the being tired didn`t happen during the working on the essays, but the next morning, that is why I had difficulties getting up.
    – anouk
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:45
  • That's not what the grammar states, and that (I think) is the problem you're tring to overcome. The example's use of the past perfect continuous form requires "getting tired" to have happened while writting the essays. If you want "getting tired" to have happened after the essays were written, then you need to change the tense of the sentence.
    – JBH
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:51
  • Okay, what tense would you suggest? I find this very hard to comprehend. By the way, your explanation is excellent.
    – anouk
    Mar 14, 2018 at 16:55

I was really tired because I had been working the night before.

That's correct. Had been working is a continuous action in the past preceding the time in the past of "I was really tired"

The sentence is grammatical.

Another example:

He finished the job early because he had been making efforts to always do so.

It's fine to use a past perfect continuous when describing an action that precedes one in the simple past. The effort was made up and until he finished the job early.

I was really tired [last Thursday] because I had worked late the night before [Wednesday night]. The working late precedes the "was really tired". It goes up until that moment, in the past.

In the following sentence, both actions are finished.

He ate quickly because he wanted to finish fast.

  • a verb after because also in the simple past. you used the past perfect "had worked". Did you mean past perfect or simple past?
    – anouk
    Mar 21, 2018 at 17:53
  • @anouk Both are correct. You seem to be at a point in your understanding of these tenses, to now understand that it is not always just the fact of being grammatical, there is also the issue of what you mean and what to say. 1) He ate quickly because he wanted to finish fast. 2) He ate quickly because he had arrived late for the meeting. 3) He ate fast because he had been worrying about not being on time. All three of those make sense.
    – Lambie
    Mar 21, 2018 at 18:00
  • yes, but is because he worked late in my example okay?
    – anouk
    Mar 21, 2018 at 18:02
  • Yes, and I gave you another example: YES, x + simple past because y + simple past. Can't you see that my example is exactly like yours?
    – Lambie
    Mar 21, 2018 at 18:06
  • yes, but I thought that maybe a definition of time (the night before) requires simple past.
    – anouk
    Mar 21, 2018 at 18:13

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