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(1) I had been working in the garden when she arrived, so I didn't hear her come in.

(2) I was working in the garden when she arrived, so I didn't hear her come in.

I think that past perfect continuous in (1) only refers to an action from the past up to/until the past point in time ( she arrived). We don't know if I was still working at the time she came in.

I think that present continuous in (2) refers to an ongoing action at the past point ( she arrived). We know that I was still working when she came in.

So, I think that using the present continuous as in (2) is more correct than using the present perfect continuous in (1). Are my opinions correct?

1 Answer 1

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Yes, (2) is the simplest and most natural way to say it.

(1) could be understood to mean that the speaker had finished working, so they might have stayed in the garden or gone back indoors.

The past perfect continuous could also have been used to speak of a time before another past time.

When I went into the house I was surprised to find Mary there. I had been working in the garden when she arrived, so I hadn't heard her come in.

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  • In your example:… I had been working in the garden when she arrived, so I hadn't heard her come in.=> it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am still in progress of working when she came. Right?
    – LE HANH
    Apr 20, 2023 at 14:38
  • It means that I was still working when she arrived, but I'm now talking about the time after I finished work and went back indoors. Apr 20, 2023 at 14:46
  • If so, with my example, using past perfect continuous also means I am still was in progress of working when she came. Right?
    – LE HANH
    Apr 20, 2023 at 14:50
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    You should say was the action still happening? Yes, the point is that the speaker didn't hear the woman enter the house because he was busy working in the garden. Apr 20, 2023 at 17:20
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    I had been working is the past perfect continuous. Its exact meaning depends on the context of the sentence it is used in. Apr 20, 2023 at 17:41

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