Doing a grammar task I found this:

A: Did you go out last night?

B: No, 1) _____(work) all day, so I 2) _____(stay) in and 3) _____(watch) TV.

The key says that the only option here is 1) had been working; 2) stayed; 3) watched

Could you, please, explain why Past Perfect Continuous is used in the first gap? And can I use Past Continuous or Past Simple instead of it and have a grammatically correct sentence?

  • I can see why we use the Past Perfect form, but I'm curious whether we can use 1) had worked all day. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 15:42
  • Any number of tenses would be acceptable. (Even the present tense.) I see no reason why one is better than another. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:46
  • I'm afraid not. We have "Did you go out last night" above, so Present Tense isn't possible to use there. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


I worked all day so I just stayed in and watched TV.

I had worked all day so I just stayed in and watched TV.

I had been working all day so I just stayed in and watched TV.

All three sentences are grammatical. There is no ogligation to indicate the sequence of events, particularly in cases where the context already makes that sequence obvious. Nor is there an obligation to use the past perfect when you choose to indicate sequence: "I took a nap after I got home" is grammatical.

The past perfect is a grammatical tool that permits easy indication of sequence in the past, particularly in extended exposition. It also permits a stress on sequence. So, although all three of the sentences at the top of this answer are grammatical, I prefer the second and third over the first because the use of the past perfect emphasizes the sequence: work in day,then lazed at night. Similarly, I prefer the third over the second sentence because the use of the continuous past perfect emphasizes the duration of a full day's work.

Finally, you ask about "I was working all day so I just stayed in and watched TV." That is certainly grammatical, but, for reasons that I cannot quite articulate, it strikes me as very unnatural in context. I would be very unlikely to say it, let alone write it, in the situation hypothesized. Others may disagree, particularly because I am unable to identify exactly what bothers me about the fourth variant.

  • That's the comment I needed! I can't thank enough:) Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 16:48

The working precedes the staying in and watching tv, so that is why the past perfect is used (something happening before something else in the past). The continuous emphasizes duration = all day. The past perfect can also be used to show a reason: he stayed in because he was tired from working all day.

  • But that's clear from the context. The order of actions is easy to trace, they go one after another: 1) He worked; 2) He stayed home; 3) He watched TV. So Past Simple is possible. Am I right? Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 17:53
  • but you are not obliged to emphasize the duration and past simple for work would be a good solution
    – Yves Lefol
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 17:18

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