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What is the difference between the following two sentences:

  1. Betty failed the final test because she had not been attending class.
  2. Betty failed the final test because she was not attending class.

Is the second sentence incorrect because Betty did not fail the same minute or hour when she was not attending her class?

Edit: I had read this example on a website "He was tired because he was exercising so hard." As I understand, this sentence emphasizes that he was tired because he was exercising at the same time. In my example "Betty failed the final test because she was not attending class." I have thought the same that the two verbs failed and attend happened the same time. which for me is impossible then I thought the sentence is incorrect.

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  • What did you mean by "....because Betty did not fail the same minute or hour when she was not attending her class."? Can you clarify that?
    – Varun Nair
    Apr 26, 2016 at 5:47
  • I have changed the sentences Jan 11, 2017 at 14:25
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    The use off a continuous tense generally indicates that the -ing activity was happening both before and after the event. If it's a recurring event it doesn't have to happen at exactly the same time as the event. For example, if the class is every Monday and the exam is on a Wednesday, the exam would not be at exactly the same time as the class, but you can still use a continuous tense "She was attending classes at the time of the exam".
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 12, 2017 at 8:13

1 Answer 1

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The usage of past perfect continuous indicates that the classes were before the exam. Past continuous would indicate that the exam occurred in the middle of the classes that she missed.

Past perfect continuous is probably the intended meaning.

"Betty failed the final test because she had not been attending class."


Regarding your edit:

The use of a past continuous generally indicates that the -ing activity was happening both before and after the event. If it's a recurring event it doesn't have to happen at exactly the same time as the event. For example, if the class is every Monday and the exam is on a Wednesday, the exam would not be at exactly the same time as the class, but you can still use past continuous:

She was attending classes at the time of the exam

What makes past perfect continuous the most appropriate in this case is that it's a final exam, which suggests that all of the classes were before the exam.

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