I read the sentence below in a news article:

"The couple had been engaged since the summer," her spokeswoman said in a statement.

Why was "had been engaged" used in this sentence. Is it wrong to say "The couple have been engaged since the summer"? Is this sentence in passive voice so "had been + past participle" used?

PS: I read other questions on stackexchange about tenses, but I couldn't understand why was had been + past participle used in the sentence.

  • 1
    You're leaving out a crucial piece of information in this question ... they're no longer engaged, they're married. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:11
  • had+been+present participle=past perfect continuous tense had+past participle= past perfect tense had+been+past participle=passive form of past perfect tense
    – user81963
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


Without further context this is a little difficult, but one reason it could be written this way is that the couple is no longer engaged. To amend the sentence for clarity:

"The couple had been engaged since the summer," her spokeswoman said in a statement, "but now they have ended the relationship."

edit: I believe this is referred to as the Past Perfect Progressive tense (or Past Perfect Continuous)

  • +1: In fact, if you google the quote, you will discover that they're no longer engaged, because they married in a secret ceremony. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:12
  • @Peter Shor Then I suppose my hypothetical amendment is inaccurate :).
    – Marcus_33
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:13
  • Makes sense- using "have been" in the statement would be wrong, because the statement is not true (because they got married) NOW. Is the word "engaged" acting as adverb or verb? (I think it is acting as adverb modifying the verb been)
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:27
  • 1
    @Alex "Engaged" is an adverb here. It's never a verb when referring to betrothal. You "get engaged" or "are engaged" or "she is engaged". Only in another sense of the word - "I engaged him in combat" - does it become a verb.
    – Marcus_33
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:31
  • 1
    @Marcus_33 I think you mean adjective, not adverb. And I think what we have here is not a simple adjective but a stative passive of the verb engage in the original sense of 'pledge'. The participle in a stative passive is, to be sure, functionally indistinguishable from an adjective; but the verbal sense lurks behind it. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 4:11

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