Can one say:

The restaurant's fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones for two years.

By my understanding of English, this sentence does not compute. Perhaps 'had been prepared' works, but this construction gives me the heebie jeebies.

Living in Switzerland as a native speaker, I’ve come to accept the intermittent grammar foibles of the the non-native-well-meaning-yet-sometimes-a-bit-too-full-of-themselves English teachers at my daughter’s schools over the years. But this time the teacher (high school) insists this sentence is grammatically and stylistically correct.

  • I would say "... had been in the works for two years".
    – Eddie Kal
    Nov 25, 2020 at 20:07
  • It is a fine sentence but ambiguous. Does the chef no longer prepare the meals? Have they been preparing but not serving these meals? If you can work out what the intended message is we can better advise you how to word it.
    – jwpfox
    Nov 25, 2020 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


Starting with a simple statement of fact

Chef Jones prepares the fantastic dinners

And rendering it in the passive voice (This doesn't change the meaning)

The fantastic dinners are prepared by Chef Jones

But if we want to indicate that it is "currently in process":

The fantastic dinners are being prepared by Chef Jones

Now what if we want to talk about the current state resulting from that process

The fantastic dinners have been being prepared by Chef Jones

Or the past state resulting from a prior process:

The fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones.

But Just because something is a correct formation, that doesn't mean it is a clear or natural way of talking. Sure it is possible to form a verb phrase that is past-perfect-continuous-passive, but that doesn't mean you should! In particular, you should avoid the passive voice:

Chef Jones had been preparing fantastic dinners for two years (prior to his arrest on food hygiene laws)....

But simple past tense would probably be as expressive

Chef Jones prepared fantastic dinners for two years, (until he was arrested under food hygiene laws)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .