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A- When I last went to Moscow, they had renovated St Basil's Cathedral,

(They finished renovating the cathedral before I went to Moscow,)

B- When I last went to Moscow, they had been renovating St Basil's Cathedral.

(They were still renovating the cathedral when I went to Moscow.)

A- Although she tried to hide her face, I could see that Clara was crying,

(Clara was still crying)

B- Although she tried to hide her face, I could see that Clara had been crying.

(Clara was no longer crying)

If the above sentences were correct, (hope someone assures that) then what is the difference between the first B sentence and the second B ? they are using the same tense (the continuous past perfect) yet they render different meanings ... I mean Clara had to be still crying just as They were still renovating the cathedral when I went to Moscow.

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    I think "They were still renovating the cathedral" would be "they were renovating" not "they had been renovating". I think, as a leaner, Perfect tense always has a start point and finishing point. I mean when you use perfect that means the action has finished. Thus, I think your interpretations is not completely correct. – Cardinal Aug 1 '16 at 13:53
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Your interpretations of the sentences are mostly correct, except for this one:

When I last went to Moscow, they had been renovating St Basil's Cathedral.

To me, this means that when you last went to Moscow there had been renovations going on before you arrived, but they had also stopped before you arrived.

If someone had said this to me, I would have assumed that the renovations had stopped very shortly before that person arrived in Moscow (whereas "had renovated" would imply that the renovations had been completed some time between the last time that person left Moscow and the next time that person went to Moscow, not necessarily shortly beforehand).

If the renovations were ongoing the last time you went to Moscow, you would use:

When I last went to Moscow, they were renovating St Basil's Cathedral.


Although she tried to hide her face, I could see that Clara was crying.

As I hope this highlights, the reason for using was (and could) in the second part of the sentence is because the first part of the sentence was in the past tense. This is called tense agreement.

Consider:

Although she is trying to hide her face, I can see that Clara is crying.

Because Clara is crying at the same time as hiding her face, it is most natural to use a continuous tense (because the crying is still happening, or was happening at the same time as the events of the first part of the sentence were).

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