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Present perfect continuous

Present perfect continuous construction: have/has + been + verb + –ing (gerund) 

Example verb: read

I have been reading   We have been reading
You have been reading   You (guys) have been reading
He/she/it has been reading   They have been reading

We use the present perfect continuous to talk about actions that started in the past and are still continuing on until the very present moment or have just stopped and have present results

  • How long have you been living in Germany for?
  • They have been studying here in school for eight years.
  • I’ve been running all afternoon, that’s why I’m feeling so hot.

Note! We cannot use the present perfect continuous with expressions that refer to a period of time that has been stopped already. 

For example: I have been studying until 17h  X  I have been studying all morning. 

We use the present perfect continuous and the present perfect to talk about actions and situations in the past that have present results

However, we use the present perfect continuous to focus on the action/situation itself, that is, seeing the action or situation as still extending and continuing whereas the present perfect focuses just on the completion of the action.

  • Present perfect continuous: I have been feeling well. (The focus is on the continuous activity)
  • Present perfect: I have been well. (The focus is just on the completed result)
  • Present perfect continuous: She has been learning how to climb. (The focus is on the continuous activity)
  • Present perfect: She has learnt/learned how to climb. (The result is on the completed action)

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

We use the present perfect continuous to give the feeling of something being ‘recent’ or ‘lately’

  • Sally has been acting strangely lately.
  • I am not sure they have been feeling so good.
  • We’ve been exercising every day. this week.
  • Jim hasn’t been practising his rugby skills that much recently.

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #19: Present perfect continuous

Explanation

  • Construction: have/has + been + verb + -ing

Example verb: learn

I have been learning   We have been learning
You have been learning   You (guys) have been learning
He/she/it has been learning   They have been learning
  • We use the present perfect continuous to talk about actions or experiences that started in the past and continue until the exact present moment or have just stopped in the present moment and have present results.
  • We use the present perfect continuous and the present perfect to talk about actions and situations in the past that have present results, but we use the present perfect continuous to focus on the action/situation itself, that is, seeing the action or situation as still extending and continuing, whereas the present perfect focuses just on the completion of the action.
  • The present perfect continuous is used to give the feeling of something being ‘recent’.

Context

  • How long have you been living in the United States for, Marta?1
  • Well, I think I’ve been living here for around three years.2
  • Ah, nice. Are you enjoying your time there?3
  • Yes, it’s definitely a bit of a culture shock compared to my home country of Spain, but I’m having a good time.
  • Which city are you living in?4
  • I’m living in New York.5
  • How wonderful! What do you think of New York?
  • Well, I’ve been experiencing the delights the city has to offer for three years now6 and I never get bored. They say New York never sleeps, which is true.
  • So, what have you been learning about the culture there?7
  • Well, overall, I’ve been feeling good about the whole place.8 Obviously, I’m only living in a small place compared to the size of the country, but New York is very diverse, cosmopolitan and fun.
  • Great to hear about your experience, Marta.
  • No worries. Don’t mention it. Catch you later.9
  • Bye.

Analysis

  1. How long have you been living in the United States for, Marta? The present perfect continuous is used here (have + been + living) to describe an experience that happened in the past and continues until the present moment.
  2. I think I’ve been living here for around three years. The present perfect continuous is used here to describe an action that happened in the past and continues until the present moment.
  3. Are you enjoying your time there? Here, the present continuous is used (are you enjoying…? to describe a state. The present simple could also be used. I.e. do you enjoy your time there?
  4. Which city are you living in? The present continuous is used to describe a state. The present simple could also be used as well. I.e. Which city do you live in?
  5. I’m living in New York. Once again, the present continuous (used here, I’m living) can be used interchangeably with the present simple to describe a state. I.e. I live in New York.
  6. I’ve been experiencing the delights the city has to offer for three years now. The present perfect continuous (‘ve been experiencing) is being used here to express the experience of living in New York City as very ‘recent’, that is, the experience is a very recent experience.
  7. So, what have you been learning about the culture there? The present perfect continuous (have been learning) is used to talk about actions and situations in the past that have present results, the results being what she has learned about the culture.
  8. Well, overall, I’ve been feeling good about the whole place. The present perfect continuous (‘ve been feeling) is used to describe an experience that is, in fact, very recent.
  9. Catch you later. This is an informal way of saying ‘see you another time’.

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