Looking at the questions asked by Huw and by Ian - I wondered if it might be worth using an expression like "in the process of …" to distinguish between the two cases.
e.g. "Los libros estaban siendo colocados en las estanterías" >
> means (more or less?): "the books were in the process of being placed on the shelves"... It really does need some kind of special treatment, because there is not always a directly translatable equivalent in English (although here, we could actually say: "the books were being placed on the shelves"). The above sentence could usefully be compared with
Los libros fueron colocados en las estanterías
Los libros eran colocados en las estanterías
Los libros han sido colocados en las estanterías.
and [maybe !]
Los libros habían sido colocados en las estanterías.
Of course, each of those^ alternatives carries a different meaning.
[… What about: "Los libros estuvieron siendo colocados en las estanterías"? !]
In your example: "The strawberries had been in the process of being collected" is probably a better illustration for my suggestion.
Putting it differently (and focussing on the main issue):
We can of course translate "... estaban siendo colocados ..." as: "... were being placed ..."and"... están siendo colocados ..." as: "... are being placed ..."but we do encounter a problem whenever the English requires an extra compound tense like "had been", "have been" or "will be".
e.g., translating "... habían estado siendo colocados ..." as "... had been being placed ..." - does not actually violate any formal law of English grammar, but it sounds really terrible because of the repetition and so it is not allowed. So in this case we need to say something like: "... had been in the process of being placed".
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