Is there any difference in meaning of the following two sentences

  1. I was waiting for an hour when your plane arrived
  2. I had been waiting for an hour when your plane arrived

1 Answer 1


#2 sounds much more natural. The events obviously happened in the past, and we use the past perfect (had been waiting) to refer to an event that happened before another event in the past. Your plane arrived, but before that, I had already spent one hour waiting, so "I had been waiting" is correct.

The past progressive ("was waiting") is usually used to describe what we were doing at the moment something happened. So it would be natural to say "I was waiting when your plane arrived" but adding for one hour doesn't make sense, because the past progressive is used to refer to an ongoing action at one moment.

  • Would you say the two sentences mean the same thing with respect to the waiting time, or does the first one say your waiting time totaled one hour, even though the plane might have arrived at some point during that time (say half an hour in), and the second one says that your waiting time up until the plane arrived had been one hour? (I know the second one means that, I just don't know how you'd construe the first one exactly.)
    – user3395
    Jul 16, 2018 at 18:58
  • 1
    It's hard to say that they mean the same thing, because #1 just sounds wrong and it's not clear what it would mean.
    – stangdon
    Jul 16, 2018 at 19:28

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