What is the difference between these two sentences?
Las fresas habían estado siendo recolectadas.
Las fresas habían estado recolectadas.
If they both mean 'The strawberries had been collected.', under what circumstances are the two sentences used?
Your second sentence "Las fresas habian estado recolectadas" is not correct, however you could say "Las fresas habían sido recolectadas", meaning "The strawberries had been collected".
In reference to the first sentence you mentioned:
although it would have the same translation in English "The strawberries had been collected", you can see that the tense in Spanish is different; we are using "habían estado siendo recolectadas", which is adding another "ongoing/progressive state" to the whole verbal structure by turning "haber sido" to "haber estado siendo". This would mean "had been being collected" which would be grammatically incorrect in English, but correct in Spanish.
I hope this helps,
I can't imagine the rather clumsy construction: ""Las fresas habían estado siendo recolectadas." in common usage when the straightforward translation could be: "Las fresas habían sido recolectadas"
If I understand correctly, there is no difference in meaning.
If the continous aspect is important, would it be easier to say, "The strawberries were being collected at the time but that operation has now finished" for example.
As a native English speaker, I'm a little confused as to why we are saying that 'the strawberries had been being collected' is incorrect in English and right now Spanish is making more sense... I dunno, I'm tired. Maybe because we'd more naturally use 'were' in that case? (The strawberries were being collected?). Is 'been being' always incorrect in English?
I don't believe this is incorrect in English, just awkward. For the sake of clarity, you might leave the direct translation even though it's ungainly.
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