We_________(had been planning /were planning) to felicitate John at our annual cultural fest when the news of his death______(had arrived /arrived).

Can someone tell me which one to use and why, and why not?

marked as duplicate by Kris, Robusto, FumbleFingers, anongoodnurse, Chenmunka Oct 5 '14 at 17:28

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  • See [this question] and its accepted answer for an idea of what the difference is. – Robusto Oct 4 '14 at 13:55
  • What I would answer is "had been planning" ... "arrived". I don't know if that's one of the possible choices or not. – Peter Shor Oct 4 '14 at 15:01

Short answer: were planning / arrived

had been planning is past perfect continuous tense, which means the action had been happening a while before the moment of expressing it, which is not really the case in this sentence. Also, you would not use perfect tense where the exact time - when the news arrived - is specified, you should use simple (indefinite). We don't say when the news had arrive because past perfect is used to express the result/effect of some action available in the past, for example He had arrived long before we started to gather.

One more thing, had been planning implies some long-lasting action, while planning to do something is not such, it just means thinking of doing something. If it was planning the annual cultural fest celebration then it would make more sense to say We had been planning the annual cultural fest celebration. But in any case, if the time is specified you cannot use perfect tense:

  • I had gone to school yesterday.
  • I have done my homework 3 minutes ago.
  • You had dropped your purse when you saw me.

All of these are incorrect and should be:

  • I went to school yesterday.
  • I did my homework 3 minutes ago.
  • You dropped your purse when you saw me.
  • 1
    Isn't "had been planning" past perfect continuous? But you said its past perfect? – Shonima Nandakumar Oct 4 '14 at 4:30
  • Is it okay to write either had been planning or were planning in the same sentence with arrived itself – Shonima Nandakumar Oct 4 '14 at 4:32
  • 1
    For an action that began in the past, continued, and then stopped in the past the past perfect continuous tense is often used. "I had been doing the gardening all morning when some friends turned up unexpectedly. My hands were filthy, so I ran a hose quickly over my hands to get rid of the dirt and I welcomed my friends in." – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 '14 at 11:03

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