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Present perfect continuous

( Free Online English Grammar Lessons )

Read time : 4 minutes

Present Perfect Continuous Form : (Have / has + been + verb + -ing)

In English we use the present perfect continuous for the following reasons :

  • to talk about continuous actions that started in the past and continue in the present
  • to emphasise the length of time something has been happening
  • to talk about an activity that has recently stopped with a present result
  • to describe actions repeated over a period of time
  • to answer questions about how long with 'for' and 'since'

We use 'for' before a period of time and 'since' before a point in time. For example, for ten years or since 2008.

Notes for use of present perfect continuous :

It is not possible to use state verbs in the present perfect continuous, except for 'want' and 'mean'. To answer a question about how long with a state verb, we use the present perfect simple.

The table below shows the different forms of present perfect continuous :

Example verb : DoI / You / We / TheyHe / She / It
Positive...'ve been doing ......'s been doing ...
Negative... haven't been doing ...... hasn't been doing ...
QuestionsHave ... been doing ...?Has ... been doing ...?
Short answers

Yes, ... have. /

No, ... haven't.

Yes, ... has. /

No, ... hasn't.

Present Perfect Continuous Example Sentences :

Positive Examples of Present Perfect Continuous : 

  • I've been learning English for 5 years.
  • She's been playing the piano since she was a child.
  • We've been living here since 2015.
  • It's been raining all night.
  • They've been watching TV for hours.

Negative Examples of Present Perfect Continuous : 

  • You haven't been studying for your exam.
  • He hasn't been working since January.
  • I haven't been skiing for ages.
  • We haven't been looking for a flat for long.
  • The dog hasn't been eating lately.

Question Examples of Present Perfect Continuous : 

  • Have you been doing yoga for long?
  • How long have you been waiting?
  • Have they been sunbathing?
  • How long has he been playing tennis?
  • Has she been crying?

In English we usually use the present perfect continuous to talk about an activity that started in the past and continues in the present.

Example Sentence :

  • Tokiko has been studying English for five years.

We usually use the present perfect simple to talk about a state that started in the past and continues in the present.

Example Sentences : 

  • My parents have been married for 48 years!

With some verbs both verb forms are possible.

  • I've lived in London for nine months. / I've been living in London for nine months.
  • He's worked at that company for two years. / He's been working at that company for two years.

In English we usually use the present perfect continuous to say how long an activity has been happening.

Example Sentence :

  • He has been running his own business for six years.

We usually use the present perfect simple to say how many things are finished.

Example Sentence :

  • She has answered twenty emails this morning.

We use the present perfect continuous for longer actions that have recently finished, but have a result in the present.

Example Sentence :

  • I've been running up and down the stairs serving customers all day and now I'm exhausted. 

In English we often use the present perfect continuous with verbs that talk about longer activities such as learn, rain, try, play, work, read, wait, etc.

  • It has been raining all afternoon.
  • He has been trying to find his keys for days.

In English we don't usually use the present perfect continuous with verbs that talk about short actions such as start, find, lose, break, buy, stop, etc. Then we use present perfect simple.

  • I've started a course. NOT I've been starting a course.

Present Perfect Simple or Continuous?

In English we use the present perfect continuous to emphasize the action we've been doing :

eg. I've been cleaning the house.

In English we use the present perfect simple to say an action has been completed :

eg. I've cleaned the house.

In English we often use present perfect simple with verbs that describe short actions: break, start, find, lose, buy, stop, finish...

In English we often use the present perfect continuous with verbs that describe longer actions: learn, study, rain, try, play, read, wait...

In English we usually use the present perfect continuous to talk about how long something has been happening :

eg. I have been studying English for 5 years.

In English we usually use the present perfect simple to talk about how many things have been completed :

eg. I have written 10 emails this morning.



Be going to
Be going to passive
Be used to / Get used to
Comparative
Defining relative clause
Echo tag
Expression
First conditional
Future
Future continuous
Future perfect continuous
Future perfect passive
Future perfect simple
Future simple passive
Greeting
Have/Get something done
Imperative
Implied conditional
Indirect question
Infinitive of purpose
Interjection
Mixed conditional
Modal
Modal passive
Non-defining relative clause
Other
Past continuous
Past continuous passive
Past perfect continuous
Past perfect passive
Past perfect simple
Past simple
Past simple passive
Polite request / offer / suggestion
Present continuous
Present continuous passive
Present perfect continuous
Present perfect passive
Present perfect simple
Present simple
Present simple passive
Question tag
Reduced relative clause
Reported speech imperative
Reported speech question
Reported speech request
Reported speech statement
Second conditional
Short answer
Superlative
Third conditional
Used to / would (past habit)
Was/were going to
Was/were supposed to
Wish
Would rather
Zero conditional