I have stumbled across the following sentence in a book:

I hadn't read a fashion magazine for ages.

According to the rule, we use the Past perfect continuous when we want to emphasize how long the activity went on. In this sentence the phrase 'for ages' emphasizes the duration of the activity. So, why has the Past Perfect tense been used in this sentence?

Thank you in advance.


1 Answer 1


No. With a negative, for ages does not emphasise - or in any way relate to - the duration of the activity. It refers to the length of time since the activity last happened.

You could also say I hadn't been reading fashion magazines for ages, but that would have a different meaning: it says that it is a long time since I stopped having the habit (over a period) of reading fashion magazines, (This would not make sense with a singular magazine, which is why I made it plural).

  • another possibility is that someone says that you have been reading a magazine for ages, but you deny that: "I have not been reading this magazine for ages!" If you change that sentence into indirect speech, it becomes: "I told him I had not been reading that magazine for ages".
    – anouk
    Commented May 14, 2022 at 20:08
  • 1
    @anouk: yes, that is a possibility, but it is a highly unlikely reading except in the context you outline.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 15, 2022 at 15:25

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