I am inquiring in terms of classic prescriptive grammar. As a preface, please consider the following usage of the perfect participle.

  • I, [having played] well, am proud of my game.

The participial phrase, having played well, is an adjectival modifying the subject, I.

My question concerns constructions of "having been" + the present participle, like:

  • I, [having been playing] well, expect to win.

To my eye, having been playing is a participle, and the participial phrase, having been playing well is an adjectival modifying the subject, I.

Is having been playing a form of participle? If so, what do we call that form?

  • 1
    Having played well and having been playing well are not adjectives but non-finite clauses. They are not modifiers; rather they are supplementary adjuncts presenting non-integrated content. Having been playing is here just part of a clause, requiring a complement like "well" to complete it.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 15:34
  • @BillJ, thanks, but I should emphasize the opening sentence of the question: in term of class prescriptive grammar. I think most high school English teachers would describe these examples in the way that I've described them. For example, see Participial Phrase. Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 4:16
  • ELU is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. No one in any of those categories is likely to say that the expressions under discussion are adjective phrases (an adjective phrase is one that has an adjective as its head word, e.g. "It was a [really lovely] day"). Note also that they have a subject-predicate structure and hence are clauses, not phrases.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 7:07
  • @BillJ - I can't disagree with your analysis, here. I do believe that fully defining and understanding the intent behind prescriptive English grammar is a serious linguistic endeavor. As my next post will make evident, my inquiry on this particular point goes well beyond the cursory analysis offered as part of my initial post. I really appreciate your thoughts. Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 17:16
  • @BillJ Notice that neither in the question nor in the reference given in the second comment do you find that the phrase should be an adjective ("fond" is an adjective, what I find odd is calling it a participial phrase) ; what we find instead are the terms "adjectival" and "functions as an adjective", that latter term being used in the definition ; this is in keeping with usual terminology (nominal phrases are not nouns, do not have all the characteristics of nouns). Participial phrases can be called ajectivals.
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 7:54

2 Answers 2


The needed nomenclature can be chosen as that provided in §§ 3.54 and 3.56 from "A Comprehensive grammar of the English language"; and as well a system for naming all complex verb forms is given.

3.54 There are four basic types of construction in a complex verb phrase:
Type A (MODAL) consists of a modal auxiliary + the base of a verb: eg: must examine.
Type B (PERFECTIVE) consists of the auxiliary HAVE + the -ed participle of a verb : eg: has examined. (Traditionally the term PERFECT has been frequently used instead of PERFECTIVE.)
Type C (PROGRESSIVE) consists of the auxiliary BE + the -ing participle of a verb : eg : is examining.
Type D (PASSIVE) consists of the auxiliary BE + the -ed participle of a verb: eg : is examined.
These four basic constructions also enter into combination with each other:
     AB :      may have examined
     AC :      may be examining
     AD :      may be examined
     BC :      has been examining
     BD :      has been examined
     CD :      is being examined
     ABC :    may have been examining
     ABD :   may have been examined
     ACD :   may be being examined
     BCD :   has been being examined
     ABCD: may have been being examined

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Consequently, "having been playing" is a perfective progressive participle.

  • Thanks, @LPH. Great answer, good source, and I agree with the analysis. I'm perplexed as to why the perfective progressive participle isn't mentioned on the internet. To my ear, it doesn't seem like an unusual construction. Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 4:42
  • To further confirm that answer, I've found the following reference "hainvg been playing" in The Grammar of Present Day English by Carl Holliday (1919) at page 141, labelled as a "perfect progressive participle". Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 1:00

[1] I, [having played well], am proud of my game.

[2] I, [having been playing well], expect to win.

Preliminary point: the bracketed elements are not adjective phrases modifying the subject "I", but non-finite subordinate clauses.

The subordinate clauses are not modifiers, but supplementary adjuncts presenting non-integrated content, though they do have the subject "I" as 'anchor'. Being non-finite, the subordinate clauses have as usual no overt subject, consisting of just their predicate VPs.

"Having played" and "having been playing" are not here syntactic units, not constituents, but just part of one, i.e. part of the VP of the subordinate clause that contains them. For this reason they are not as wholes forms that we can name.

The same applies to [2], where "having been playing" is part of the VP of the bracketed non-finite clause.

In both cases the subordinate clause is an adjunct of implicated reason, which can be interpreted as giving a reason for the matrix situation.

  • 1
    Are we to understand that the term "perfective progressive participle" is incorrect? You don't find it on the net, at least I couldn't, nor could I find "perfective continuous participle" , but you do find "progressive participle" (google.com/…) and "perfective progressive" (books.google.com/ngrams/…); why then shouldn't we be able to combine the two?
    – LPH
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 20:14

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