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?

  • 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 on hiatus 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 -him- 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.


The answer lies in the word "before". If that word is used the past perfect tense is not necessary and past simple may be used. "Before" makes it clear which action happened first.

  • Could you reference to some resource exploring the intricacies between these two usages? – Rusletov Feb 8 '20 at 11:42

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