I was wondering if it was possible to write that:

My mother had not been writing for so long

I know that "My mother had not written for so long" would be better. But imagine that the mother wrote a lot to her daughter(may be 1 or 2 letters per day during 4 years) and then she stopped . Could the daughter tell after not receiving any letters for one month "My mother had not been writing for so long "

  • The word "so" is causing me problems. Take it out and it sounds better.
    – KCH
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 9:20

3 Answers 3


Continuous forms are often scene-setters. They create a backdrop on which to hang specific events at precise points in time, and using them creates an expectation. So when I read "My mother had not been writing for long", I expect an event set against this backdrop. For example: when the phone rang.

In your example the mother has stopped writing. Stopping is sudden; it is not a backdrop. A continuous form is therefore not appropriate. The daughter might say "My mother has not written for a month" or, to imply continuity in the past, "She used to write every day but she stopped about a month ago."


Yes the grammatical form is correct if the context is in the past, but I'd probably say:

  • I had not been hearing from my mother for long.

But if your sister is saying it now:

  • I have not been hearing from my mother for long.

To hear from:

To get a letter, telephone call, or transmitted communication from.

Source: Collins Dictionary


Yes, you may use your example. Imagine a situation like in the following example:

“I failed receiving letters because my mother had not been writing for long”.

This is an example of using past perfect continuous before another action in the past, which shows cause and effect.

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