Past unreal conditional + continuous is used to discuss imaginary situations happening at a very specific time in the past over a period of time in the past.


If-clause: had been + present participle Result: would have been + present participle

Examples in the if-clause

  • If I had been talking to him when he said that, I would have punched him in the face. (But I wasn't talking to him when he said that)
  • If he had been standing near the house when the wall collapsed, it would have killed him. (Luckily, he moved away before the wall fell)

Examples in the result

  • If you had gone to his house last night, he would been sitting on his couch in front of the TV. (But you didn't go to his house, so you didn't see what he was doing)
  • If she had missed her train, he would have been waiting for her at the station for hours. (Luckily, she caught her train and he didn't have to wait)

Notice that the past unreal conditional + continuous can be used like the pas continuous in imaginary situations to emphasise interruptions or parallel actions in th past.

Examples in the if-clause

  • If James had been crossing the street when the car ran the red light, it would have hit him.
  • If Tom had been studying while Backy was making dinner, he would have finished his homework early and they could have gone to the movie.

Examples in the result

  • If James hadn't stopped to tie his shoe, he would have been crossinig the street when the car ran the red light.
  • If you had gone to their house last night, Bob would have been reading the newspaper, Nancy would have been talking on the phone and the kids would have been watching TV. They always do the same things.


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stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or event
schoolwork that a pupil is required to do at home
subject to one or more conditions or requirements being met