Present Perfect Continuous

We use the present perfect continuous to describe an action which started in the past and is still going on or has recently stopped. The structure of the present perfect continuous is:

Have/has + been + verb + ing.

  • It’s a long queue. We have been waiting for three hours. (and we’re still waiting)
  • The ground is wet. It has been raining. (and it stopped raining recently)
  • Mia has been learning Italian for three months.
  • We’ve been looking for you. Where have you been?
  • Lucy has been working as a waitress for three years.
  • He’s been talking to his wife about the problem.

The PP continuous usually answers the question how long and in that context it is used with for and since.

  • How long have you been studying Chinese?
  • It has been snowing for hours. Everything is white.
  • They’ve been watching videos all day.
  • Brian has been playing basketball since he was five.
  • Gemma has been going out with Darren for six months.

Present continuous vs present perfect continuous

The present continuous describes an action which is in progress now while the present PP continuous refers to the action which has started in the past and is still continuing or has just stopped.

  • Take a coat. It’s snowing outside. / It has been snowing since yesterday.
  • Jill is studying in the library. / Mary has been studying for hours. She is going to take a break now.
  • The children are playing outside. / The children have been playing outside and they are having lunch now.

Present perfect vs present perfect continuous

The main difference is that the present perfect action is finished while the present perfect continuous has not finished yet.

  • I’ve read the book. (I’m not reading it any more, I finished reading) / I’ve been reading the book. (I haven’t finished reading it, I’m still reading it).
  • Laura has studied for the test. (she isn’t studying any more)/ Laura has been studying for the test all morning (she is still studying)
  • Mike has repaired his old bike. / Mike has been repairing his old bike for two hours.

Present perfect continuous answers the question how long while present perfect answers the question how much or how many.

  • I’ve been reading for two hours / I’ve read thirty pages.
  • She’s been learning to drive for a month / She hasn’t learned much about driving yet.

Remember not to use present perfect continuous with state (non-action) verbs.

  • I’ve known him since we were children (not I’ve been knowing him)
  • I’ve seen your brother in the supermarket (not I’ve been seeing your brother)
  • He’s remembered to lock the door. (not he’s been remembering)

We can use the verbs work, live and teach in both present perfect and present perfect continuous without difference in meaning.

  • They’ve worked there for three years / they’ve been working there for three years.
  • We’ve lived in this house since 2013. / we’ve been living in this house since 2013.
  • She’s taught English since she graduated / she’s been teaching English since she graduated.

Read more about the present perfect simple here.

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Present Perfect Continuous
Present Perfect Continuous

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