I had been waiting for you

I waited for you

we had been sleeping

we slept

what is main difference between these sentences? And when to use Simple Past and when to use Past Perfect Continuous?

  • Hello, i'm confused about these two tenses when i should use Past simple and when i should use Past Perfect continuous. This question might be little stupid, but I would much appreciate it if anyone can come up with a good answer.. Feb 8, 2015 at 12:48
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    Context determines which tense applies. There are many questions here about this topic. Feb 8, 2015 at 12:55
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    @ElbertShakespeare Welcome to ELL! On one hand, you question, though it includes some specific examples, is essentially about the difference between the past simple and the past perfect tenses, and thus it's rather broad to answer completely. On the other hand, we already have this great post: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/13255/…, which explains the perfect aspect of English in depth. I recommend reading it. Feb 8, 2015 at 13:13
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    BTW, this question is not stupid at all. It's one of the most common problems most English language learners have. Feb 8, 2015 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


We use different past tenses to describe moments and periods of time in the past.


When Andrea arrived at work at 9.30 am......

----------8.30 am----------9.00 am----------9.30 am----------10.00 am----------

1) When Andrea arrived at work at 9.30, she could see the post over her desk. Her secretary had opened it before she came. (The secretary opened the post between 8.00 am am and 9.00 am, in a distant past)

2) When Andrea arrived at work at 9.30, her secretary was opening the post. (The action is happening at 9.30)

3) When Andrea arrived at work at 9.30, her secretary opened the post. (The action finished between 8.00 am and 9.25 am)

Your question isn't silly at all.


The Past Simple tells a story in chronological order...

Sue met Pete at university. They were together for six years. They divorced last month.

... while Past Perfect can be used to tell a story in a different order.

Sue and Pete divorced last month. They had met at university, and had been together for six years.

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