For a long time many scientists suspected that koalas were so lethargic because the compounds in eucalyptus leaves kept the cute little animals in a drugged­out state. But more recent research has shown that the leaves are simply so low in nutrients that koalas have almost no energy.

Can I use had suspected or had been suspecting instead of suspected? To me, it seems possible because "For a long time", the action of the verb was maintained for a certain duration of time.

Do the two of them have same meaning in the context above?

  • You don't normally use the verb "suspect" in the progressive form. It's either We suspect that X is false or We suspected that X was/is false NOT "we are/were suspecting..."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 23:07

1 Answer 1


All three are pretty much equal in meaning, but "had suspected" would be the preferred choice here, since it emphasises that this has now changed.

  • +1 Worth noting that though "had been suspecting" is "equal in meaning", it's not natural, to the point I suspect it's not grammatical.
    – gotube
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 22:22

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