I couldn't understand the difference between these sentences:

َ1.We were watching TV when he arrived.

2.We had been watching TV when he arrived.


1.I was listening music when you called.

2.I had been listening music when you called.

  • In this context, 'had been' suggests that the activity had finished when the visitor arrived. Oct 12, 2018 at 13:36
  • The second pair isn't grammatical unless you consider yourself to actually be a type of music.
    – Lawrence
    Oct 12, 2018 at 13:52
  • @Lawrence: May you explain more?
    – Hasani
    Oct 12, 2018 at 14:50
  • "Listening music" is a noun phrase, like "loud music" or "calm water" or "bright light". Possibly called a bare role noun phrase, like the bare role noun "king" in "I am king". It describes something of the 'essence' of the subject.
    – Lawrence
    Oct 12, 2018 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


'Had been' refers to an unspecified period in the past: Egyptians had been making papyrus for centuries.

'Was/were' indicates the recent past: That papyrus was intact as of an hour ago.

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