I find difficult the past perfect continuous, so I looked for some real examples for practice it. I will give you reasons about why the writer used the past perfect continuous in this situation, for see if I am understanding that tense correctly or not and I would appreciate your feedback.

First, the concept:

"Past perfect continuous: uses

Continuing events in the past:

We use the past perfect continuous to talk about actions or events which started before a particular time in the past and were still in progress up to that time in the past:


We can use the past perfect continuous to talk about events which started before a time in the past and which finished, but where the effects or results were still important at a point in the past:"

(SOURCE: Cambridge Dictionary)

Now, the real example:

In this paragraph:

"Unrelated to the couple’s case, a third Australian is also being held in Evin prison, reportedly in solitary confinement. The Cambridge-educated academic had been lecturing at an Australian university before she was arrested last year. She has reportedly been tried – the charges are unknown – and sentenced to 10 years in jail."

(SOURCE: The Guardian)

"had been lecturing": It talks about an action or event in the past and was still in progress up to a particular time in the past. I ask: Which is the particular time in the past which stops her from giving lectures? My view about this is: "before she was arrested last year" gives me not too much reason for stops her from giving lectures because I could be arrested by the police and after a few hours of questions they could release me without charges for example, but in the sentence before the whole idea tells that those people are in Evin prison, so I suppose that one of them is the woman who was working at an Australian university, then, for me the whole idea in the sentence before is the particular time in the past.

If I am right, I did not know that I could build THE SAME tense mixed in more than one sentence, the example before, the past perfect continuous tense was built in two sentences. I ask: Is it possible or I am wrong?

1 Answer 1


I think you may be having trouble with with past perfect continuous tense because you are thinking too logically about it, or want it to say too much.

Your answer to "Which is the particular time in the past which stops her from giving lectures?" is correct in this case, but it is not necessary to state such a time, or even for there to be such a time, to use the "had been..." tense.

If you feel like you understand present perfect tense well:

 I have been lecturing at Cambridge....

then it is easy to understand past perfect continuous. "have been..." indicates that an action was ongoing in the past and is continuing into and through the present moment, and "had been" simply means that "have been..." was true /at some definite point in the past/. (And not necessarily that it is not still true!)


At the time she had been lecturing, she would have said "I have been lecturing". 

That example has many tenses and may seem confusing at first, but I find it more easily and accurately describes the past perfect continuous then the Cambridge Dictionary description above. Read it over a few times.

To answer your final question: the tense is there in a single sentence itself; it does not depend on other sentences, or any other context whatsoever.

  • 1
    To emphasize, I think the biggest thing tripping up the OP is that past perfect continuous does not say that the action stopped. It only says that the action was occurring up to that point. The action might have stopped at that point, or it might also have continued on after that point. The use of this tense doesn't actually say whether it did continue or not (it only talks about the "before" part, not the "after" part).
    – Foogod
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 20:46

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