Today I ran into an example in the Longman dictionary. I wonder whether or not it is correct. Here is the example:

Bargain hunters queued for hours before the store opened.

I believe it should be:

Bargain hunters had been queuing for hours before the store opened.

If they are both correct, what is the difference between these two sentences?

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  • Both are correct, both describe the same sequence of events. Use of the perfect depends on narrative context; only that context can tell us which description of these two events is "better". – StoneyB Dec 4 '15 at 15:53
  • Past perfect continuous often describes the cause of something in the past. The contrast you give is hard to decode. So more context needs to be provided. – Alejandro Dec 4 '15 at 15:57
  • The first usage sounds British to me (and not just because of "queued"). Is the Longman dictionary British by any chance? – Azor Ahai Dec 4 '15 at 23:46

Both are correct, if anything, the second using had been queuing places more emphasis (or attention) on the fact they were waiting for such a long time.


Both usages convey the same meaning, that the shoppers had been outside the building for hours. However the difference I believe comes from the verb. "Queueing" isn't something done actively and so it sounds a little odd to my ear to "have been queuing." Maybe "they had been milling about."

I don't ever use to queue though so my intuition may be off

  • "Queueing" is quite an active pastime as any Brit will attest to: "milling about" is aimless, but queueing has purpose! One can always substitute "queueing" with "waiting in line" to see if the sentence sounds correct... – Peter Dec 5 '15 at 1:22
  • They're both grammatical of course. I was attempting to explain why the author may have chosen the form he did rather than the other one. Like I said, not an expert on queuing so thanks for chiming in. – Azor Ahai Dec 5 '15 at 1:33

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