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This is a from a novel: A little girl got sick after eating something and the mother wants to know what it was.

The sentence says:

"What have you been eating?"
"The dried leaves in the box on the shelf."

Mother thinking to herself:

"That is where I had stashed the poisonous plants I had been collecting."

Am I right in thinking that "I had been collecting" is used to emphasize that I had been collecting these plants for a while ?

Is it possible to say: "the poisonous plants I had collected" because it is a collection (an amount)of plants that have been stashed away ?

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    This is only a part of a sentence. it would be easier to answer this question if you provided the complete sentence, because past perfect and past perfect continuous relate to some other event in the past, and that event is not included in your sentence fragment. – JavaLatte Dec 15 '19 at 10:46
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    I think your interpretation is perfectly correct: she had been collecting these plants for a while; she hadn't just gone out one morning to collect them. – TonyK Dec 15 '19 at 14:56
  • @TonyK Yes, but could it be changed to "had collected" to emphasize that it is a collection of plants sitting in the box, instead of putting the emphasis on the action of collecting? – anouk Dec 15 '19 at 15:08
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    Yes, it could; the sentence would be just as good. But the sentence is anyway much too formal for conveying somebody's thoughts. Better is something like "Oh no! That's where I stashed my collection of poisonous plants!" – TonyK Dec 15 '19 at 15:43
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They are very similar, but the different tenses have slightly different meanings.

"That is where I had stashed the poisonous plants I had been collecting."

^ This indicates that the box is the place where the plants the mother collected were placed. She was still collecting them at the time they were put there; and the collecting was an ongoing activity at that time.

"That is where I had stashed the poisonous plants I had collected."

^ This also indicates that the box is the place where the plants the mother collected were placed. She was finished collecting them when they were put there, or it was a simultaneous and one-time event.

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