There are 2 questions which the answer key says I'm wrong.


By the time he was applying / he'd applied, the job had already gone.

I think it should be "he was applying"


She left before anyone had had / was having a chance to explain the situation.

I think the most suitable one is "was having", but answer key says the other one.

If truly I am wrong, could you explain why ?

screenshot of the text of the first question

screenshot of the text of the second question

  • was having is not correct since have is a state verb. In this case have indicates a possession so by dismiss, had had is the correct tense. Now, why do you think that the past perfect in the second sentence is incorrect?
    – Schwale
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:22
  • @Ustanak Because the second part of the sentence happened after the first part ,so in my knowledge if it was like "She had left before anyone had a chance ..." , it would be correct but it is the opposite.
    – Our
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


I think you have some reason to dispute the first one, but with the second, no dialect but Indian English tends to use the continuous nowadays with having when the reference is to an action that occurs at a point in time or with reference to a present condition or with accumulated experience.

I am having a hard time getting used to life in a rural village, after having grown up in New York City.

The CEO had left for another meeting before I had a chance to explain the numbers on the report. [The CEO was already gone when I explained the numbers to the other attendees at the meeting.]

or with the past-perfect

The CEO left for another meeting before I had had a chance to explain the numbers on the report to him. [I did not get a chance to explain the numbers to the CEO]

or with the simple past

The CEO left for another meeting before I had a chance to explain the numbers on the report to him. [I did not get a chance to explain the numbers to the CEO]

A chance is perceived to be a momentary occurrence, not a prolonged period of opportunity.

OK Here she comes. Now's your chance to ask her to the spring dance.

not OK Here she comes. Now's your chance to be asking her to the spring dance.

  • But the second sentence in my question , the first part of the sentence is past simple ,so is the usage still correct ?
    – Our
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:42
  • See my addendum about chance and the non-continuous.
    – TimR
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:43
  • I have placed a paraphrase of the meaning inside [square brackets].
    – TimR
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:55
  • One last question , when I studied past perfect , there was just a one usage ,which is "emphasise one action happened before another in the past".Is this usage begin used advance english or it is the same usage ,but I couldn't figure out ?
    – Our
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:59
  • Sorry, I don't understand your question.
    – TimR
    Feb 13, 2016 at 14:58

First things first: the past perfect is formed by: Had + past participle

For the first sentence, you should try to think about it like this: He tryied to apply for the job, (he filled the application form), but the job was already taken: so the verb refers to a finished action.

Was applying could be used if he started to apply but was stopped:

While he was applying a woman asked him a question.

The second statement should be easier, but again think about it like an action that didn't happened: the phrase it's not about something that was in progress, so again there's no use of the Past Continuous form. You can read more about it here.

  • So you are saying that he/she intended to apply to the job ,but the job had already taken , right ?
    – Our
    Feb 13, 2016 at 13:45
  • Not exactly: he intended to apply and he also applied, meaning that he gave his CV to the company. Sadly the job was already taken, but he still tried. That's correct even if he was rejected right away, or if wasn't called back, or if he was called back a week later.
    – drM.
    Feb 13, 2016 at 14:09
  • You're welcome. Good luck with your english study.
    – drM.
    Feb 13, 2016 at 14:16

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