What is the Present Perfect Continuous tense?

What is the Present Perfect Continuous tense?


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Unlike the present perfect which is very difficult to control, the present perfect continuous (or present perfect ing) is quite simple to use.

It is used to talk about an action that began in the past and continues in the present. It is often used to focus on the duration of an action (with ‘for’,’since’ and ‘how long…?‘).

  • Bob started playing guitar when he was a child.
    = He has been playing guitar since he was a child (and he is still playing guitar.)

1/ Formation

Have/has + been + verb -ing

 Affirmative Negative Question
 I / you / we / they    I have been playing  I have not been playing  Have I been playing ?_
 he / she / it   He has been playing_  He has not been playing_  Has he been playing ?_

_

The contracted form of I have can also be used = I’ve, He has = He’s…

2/ Usage

When you want to insist on the duration (not the result) of an action that has recently been completed or is still ongoing:

  • I’ve been watching TV for 3 hours.
  • She has been living in London since 2010.
  • She has been writing for two hours.
  • How long have you been learning English ? => I’ve been learning English since a few weeks.
  • James has been teaching at the university since June.
  • I’ve been looking for you for one hour !
  • how long has it been raining? => It has been raining the whole day.
  • He’s been waiting for the train since 3pm.
  • How long have you been travelling in Australia ? => I’ve been traveling for about a year.
  • How long have you been studying japanese ? => I’ve been studying japanese for years.

An action that has recently been completed and for which a temporary result can be observed (focus on the action):

  • She has been working all afternoon, that’s why she is so tired.
  • You’re out of breath, where have you been running?
  • Why do you look so tired ? => I haven’t been sleeping well.
  • Recently, I’ve been feeling really tired.
  • What have you been doing ? => I’ve been cleaning the house.
  • It has been raining, the ground is wet.
  • My hands are dirty, I’ve been fixing the car.
  • Matt has not been practicing his English lately.
  • Guess what he’s been doing !

3/ Notes

⚠ State verbs such as believe, love, have, know… do not have a progressive form (with -ing). The only exceptions to the present perfect continuous are want and mean (ex: I’ve been meaning to tell Sarah, but I keep forgetting).

  • Tom has been having his car for two years. faux
  • Tom has had his car for two years. ok

For or Since ?

  • I’ve been waiting since 2pm. (date/time)
  • I’ve been waiting for 2 hours. (duration)
  • He has been living in China since 1997. (date/time)
  • He has been living in China for 18 years. (duration)

⚠ By using the continuous perfect present in a question, it implies that you can see, feel, hear or feel the result of an action. If you say ‘Have you been feeling alright ?‘, it means that the person seems sick or in poor health. If you say ‘Have you been smoking ?‘ it can mean that the person smells cigarette.

Be careful, we can insult someone by using this time incorrectly. Similarly, if you say ‘You’ve been watching television again !‘ or ‘You’ve been eating chocolate‘ you accuse the person you’re talking to.

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