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    #1

    I had been walking down the street...

    Please check if the sentence is possible.
    I know that "I was walking" would be more likely, but is that version also possible?

    I had been walking down the street when all of a sudden something caught my eye.

  1. engee30's Avatar
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    #2

    Smile Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro8686 View Post
    Please check if the sentence is possible.
    I know that "I was walking" would be more likely, but is that version also possible?

    I had been walking down the street when all of a sudden something caught my eye.
    With the past progressive used, the moment you spotted something with your eyes occured while you were still walking down the street.
    With the past perfect progressive used, the situation is different in that your walking down the street was already finished. There was a period of time elapsed between walking and spotting something.

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    #3

    Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro8686 View Post
    Please check if the sentence is possible.
    I know that "I was walking" would be more likely, but is that version also possible?

    I had been walking down the street when all of a sudden something caught my eye.
    [I am not a teacher]

    Well, it's grammatically right, but it does not make sense:

    I was walking down the streets when all of a sudden something caught my eye. (it happened)
    I had been walking down the street when all of a sudden something caught my eye. (it did not happen because I was not walking on the streets, so, how in the world would I know that something hit my eye?)

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    #4

    Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    With the past perfect progressive used, the situation is different in that your walking down the street was already finished. There was a period of time elapsed between walking and spotting something.
    Why there would have to be a period of time elapsed between walking and spotting something? Can't the sentence mean that I spotted something after I had been walking for some time and then walking still continued?
    Thomson and Martinet in A Practical English Grammar say that we can use the past perfect continuous tense "when the action began before the time of speaking in the past, and continued up to that time, or stopped just before it" and for example the sentence He had been repairing the engine "does not tell us wheter or not the job was completed".

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    #5

    Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro8686 View Post
    Please check if the sentence is possible.
    I know that "I was walking" would be more likely, but is that version also possible?

    I had been walking down the street when all of a sudden something caught my eye.
    Hi pedro8686,

    Take a look at this link: The Past Perfect Progressive and What is the Past Perfect Progressive Tense in English Grammar--Today's Free English Lesson on MyEnglishTeacher.net

    What makes your past perfect progressive nonsensical in this sentence is the word when, because its use implies that the two actions -- walking down the street and the thing that caught your eye -- occurred simultaneously. And the use of the past perfect is for one activity that happens before another.

    Try this instead: Before something suddenly caught my eye, I had been walking down the street.

    - or: I had been walking down the street before noticing something that suddenly caught my eye.

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    #6

    Cool Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro8686 View Post
    Why there would have to be a period of time elapsed between walking and spotting something? Can't the sentence mean that I spotted something after I had been walking for some time and then walking still continued?
    Thomson and Martinet in A Practical English Grammar say that we can use the past perfect continuous tense "when the action began before the time of speaking in the past, and continued up to that time, or stopped just before it" and for example the sentence He had been repairing the engine "does not tell us wheter or not the job was completed".
    Thomson and Martinet are right, of course. But they must have provided the information about this issue somewhat unclearly. When you combine the two tenses (ie the past perfect continuous and the past simple) in one sentence by means of when, there is a slight difference between such a combination and that of the past continuous and past simple:
    When the race started, it had been raining and the streets were wet. (It wasn't raining during the race. It had already stopped.)
    vs
    When the race started, it was raining and the streets were wet. (It was still raining during the race.)

    That's what a past perfect form is used for - giving you some information about what happened (or was happening) before another situation in the past.

    Now, back to Thomson and Martinet being right. If you want to say how long an activity lasts in the past, the only possible way to do so is by the use of a past perfect form; in such a case, the activity does continue up to the moment when another situation takes place (and sometimes continues beyond that situation):
    We'd been running for about two hours when we decided to have a rest. (running right up to the moment when we decided to have a rest)
    We'd been running for about five hours when we started to lose our strength. (running continued up to the moment when we started to lose our strength, and beyond that moment)

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    #7

    Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    Now, back to Thomson and Martinet being right. If you want to say how long an activity lasts in the past, the only possible way to do so is by the use of a past perfect form; in such a case, the activity does continue up to the moment when another situation takes place (and sometimes continues beyond that situation):
    We'd been running for about two hours when we decided to have a rest. (running right up to the moment when we decided to have a rest)
    We'd been running for about five hours when we started to lose our strength. (running continued up to the moment when we started to lose our strength, and beyond that moment)
    I suppose you ment past perfect contiunuous here, but if I want to say how long an activity lasts in the past I can also use past perfect, for example:
    We had run for about five hours.

    We had run for about five hours then we started to lose our strength.
    (I think when wouldn't be appropriate here because as Monticello said it would mean that both actions happened simultaneously.)There is also a sentence in the book I mentioned which can be the example of "an action which began before the time of speaking in the past, and was still continuing at that time":
    Bill was in uniform when I met him. He had been a solider for ten years, and planned to stay in the army till he was thirty.

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    #8

    Unhappy Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro8686 View Post
    I suppose you ment past perfect contiunuous here, but if I want to say how long an activity lasts in the past I can also use past perfect, for example:
    We had run for about five hours.

    We had run for about five hours then we started to lose our strength.
    (I think when wouldn't be appropriate here because as Monticello said it would mean that both actions happened simultaneously.)
    I haven't a clue what makes Monticello think so. When is not only used to say that two things happen simultanously.

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    #9

    Re: I had been walking down the street...

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    I haven't a clue what makes Monticello think so. When is not only used to say that two things happen simultanously.
    Quote Originally Posted by pedro8686
    I know that "I was walking" would be more likely, but is that version also possible?
    My assumption was that pedro8686's original question was asking if "that version," i.e., the past perfect continuous, would also carry the same meaning. My answer above is given in this context. No it doesn't. Using before here, as opposed to when (which in the simple past progressive "version" implies simultaneity), points out the difference.

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    #10

    Re: I had been walking down the street...

    I am asking if the sentence
    I had been walking down the street when all of a sudden something caught my eye.
    is possible (and logical in some situation).

    Quote Originally Posted by Monticello View Post
    And the use of the past perfect is for one activity that happens before another.
    In the sentence I am using the present perfect continuous tense, and it is also used to express an action which continues beyond the time of speaking in the past (which I read about in the book too). However, if the sentence doesn't make sense to a native speaker then I won't be arguing :)

    Last edited by pedro8686; 01-Jun-2009 at 22:53.

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