Well, guys, please consider the following:

  1. When he arrived, she was repairing the bike.
  2. When he arrived, she had been repairing the bike.

Which one is better? Or do they have their own meanings?

  • Both sentences are confusing because each he seems to be referring to a different person—and that's not a common way of using pronouns. Otherwise, the person who arrived was repairing the bike. But regardless of it being a motorcycle or a bicycle, it would be very strange for somebody to be repairing it at the same time as arriving somewhere. Almost always in a situation like this, and to avoid confusion, at least one of the pronouns would be replaced by a noun. Aug 14, 2019 at 5:49
  • No, bro. There are two guys involved here. The first he is a different person from the second of course. Aug 14, 2019 at 5:52
  • @Bee you have edited but how "h"e is possible in both the clauses? is it not ambiguous as jason Bassford rightly pointed out? Aug 14, 2019 at 12:10
  • @Jason Bassford. as you have pointed out the use of he in both the clauses is ambiguous.I have changed the pronoun as she in one clause neither the author nor the editor are not particular about it Aug 14, 2019 at 12:16
  • @Jagatha the edit I made was through the review queue and I wrongly assumed the he's had been changed to she's to reach the minimum character restraint, since comments don't show up
    – Gamora
    Aug 14, 2019 at 14:55

3 Answers 3


I don't find any grammatical errors here. But, I think the sense made is slightly different in each sentence.

"was repairing" concerns only the point of arrival of 'he'. That is, what the person was doing at that point of time.

"had been repairing" talks about how the action was being done for quite sometime even before the arrival of the said 'he'.

Hope this makes it clearer.


Both are grammatically correct, with slightly different meanings. "had been repairing" has more impact or stress on the action of "repairing the bike" than "was repairing".


Though both the sentences are grammaticlly correct i prefer the first sentence

"When she arrived , he was repairing " is more natural because the activity was continuing in the past at the point

we usually do not use past perfect continuous without a time phrase so when she arrived, he had been repairing the bike for half an hour is more natural look at the sentence: The umpire inspected the pitch at11Am. The sun was shining but the pitch was damp because it had been raining Here past perfect can be used without a time phrase because activity happened well before the time of pitch inspection

  • It is the understanding of most non-natives, but I have seen countless natives use the tense without the "for" or "since" phrase Aug 14, 2019 at 6:31
  • @Fadli Sheik you may have heard it spoken by native speakers but I have answerered after referring to standard grammar books such as Raymond murphy's and Michael swan's. It may be possible in speech but not in standard writing Aug 14, 2019 at 6:46

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