# past continuous and past perfect

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Zeming, Sep 13, 2017.

1. ### ZemingNew Member

Mandarin Chinese
I was taking an english test which requires me to fill the sentences correctly, the question went like this:

'Yesterday afternoon Sarah went to the station to meet Paul. When she got there, Paul ______(already/ wait) for her. His train ______(arrive) early.'

'Yesterday afternoon Sarah went to the station to meet Paul. When she got there, Paul _had already been waiting _(already/ wait) for her. His train _arrived_(arrive) early.'

But, the right answer the test book gave was:

'Yesterday afternoon Sarah went to the station to meet Paul. When she got there, Paul _was already waiting _(already/ wait) for her. His train _had arrived_(arrive) early.'

So, basically, I filled the first blank space with past perfect and past simple for the second. I would like to know, 1. why i was wrong and 2. what's the difference between my answer and the correct one in this case (how can I know which one I should use).

Please would anybody help me on this one? thank you very much!

2. ### suzi brSenior Member

Cheshire
English / England
My instinct was for the same answer as your text book.

I am not sure how to explain the difference, but with double gaps in the sentence you need to look at the whole thing, not just opt for one gap and never mind that the next option will sound wrong. Although the information in the text is given in this order, the actual sequence of events is: the train had arrived first, then he was waiting for her.

3. ### ZemingNew Member

Mandarin Chinese
Hi, thank you for your reply. so, what if there was just the first gap without mentioning the train, can I put 'had already been waiting' in there?

4. ### EnglishmypassionSenior Member

Nainital
India - Hindi
(When she reached the station,) Paul had already been waiting suggests as if Paul kept waiting (for her) even after Sarah had reached there (which is meaningless)-- he had already started waiting and still kept waiting!
On the other hand, he was already waiting suggests that he was waiting till she reached there -- already is there just to suggest that he had reached there before Sarah and Sarah didn't have to wait for him.

5. ### se16teddySenior Member

London but from Yorkshire
English - England
This suggests that the waiting began and ended before she got there. We use the past continuous, not the past perfect, to say that an action continued until something else happened.

6. ### VronskySenior Member

Russian - Russia
It would have been correct if the sentence had contained a time period, for example,

When she got there, Paul had already been waiting for her for two hours.

7. ### EnglishmypassionSenior Member

Nainital
India - Hindi
But the part you quoted from the OP uses the past perfect continuous/progressive, which suggests the continuity of the action, not its ending.

8. ### se16teddySenior Member

London but from Yorkshire
English - England
We use the past continuous to indicate that a past action continued until another past event.
We use the past perfect in cases that go beyond this: for example, if the action had stopped before the supevening event, or to emphasize that the action was previous or (as Vronsky says) if we want to indicate the duration of the action.
Yesterday afternoon Sarah went to the station to meet Paul. When she got there, Paul had already been waiting for her for twenty minutes.

We don't use the past perfect merely because a past action happened before another past action.

Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
9. ### ZemingNew Member

Mandarin Chinese
Could you please give an example for this? thanks a lot!

10. ### se16teddySenior Member

London but from Yorkshire
English - England
Fred moved to Rome in 2004. He had been visiting regularly for several years before then.

11. ### ZemingNew Member

Mandarin Chinese
Thank you very much. Does this sentence implies that others had kept visiting Fred regularly and stopped visiting him after he removed to Rome?

12. ### EnglishmypassionSenior Member

Nainital
India - Hindi
Thanks, Teddy. I did/do know all that, and I agree with Vronsky-- my whole point was that the OP didn't use the past perfect but the past perfect continuous. (My post #4 above was an answer to the Op's question why the past perfect continuous was not correct there.)
Thanks.

Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
13. ### ZemingNew Member

Mandarin Chinese
thank you all

14. ### se16teddySenior Member

London but from Yorkshire
English - England
No, I think it can only mean that Fred visited Rome regularly.