Inspired by a past-perfect vs. present-perfect online test:

They were angry because they had waited for too long.


They were angry because they had been waiting for too long.

Are both options grammatical? If yes, what is the difference in meaning?

The second options seems to be more widespread, according to a quick Google search.

Is it because with had waited, the process of waiting might have ended before them becoming angry, and so there is a gap between their "waiting" stopped and their "angriness" started?

  • 2
    I think you nailed it. Their current anger is a direct result of their wait continuing until the 'present' [the moment being spoken about], so both are now running concurrently, waiting & anger. Both are perfectly grammatical to my less than expert eye, just the 2nd has the urgency of a single continuum. Jun 25, 2015 at 18:11
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    both are grammatical, IMO. The latter one talks more about 'the process' and gives a flair of extended 'period'! BTW, welcome back! :) +1
    – Maulik V
    Jun 26, 2015 at 3:53

1 Answer 1


Say they waited from 10:00 to 11:00 am. It is now 1:00. If you were saying they were angry at 11:00 while still waiting you could use either form but the second is better because it is more clear. If you were saying they were angry at noon--after the waiting but still in the past--then you would use the first form.

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