"Present Perfect Continuous" Tense in English Grammar

Present Perfect Continuous

The present perfect continuous tense is a useful tense in English grammar. Why? Because it connects the present and the past. Let's see how.

"Present Perfect Continuous" Tense in English Grammar

What Is present perfect continuous Tense?

The present perfect continuous tense (also called present perfect progressive) just like present perfect simple can be used to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present. Their difference is that the present perfect simple normally focuses on the result of the activity, and the present perfect continuous normally focuses on the process of the activity. Let's compare these examples:

I've painted the living room! It looks beautiful!

Here the tense of the sentence is present perfect, therefore the focus is on the result.

I've been painting the living room. It's been three hours!

Here the tense of the sentence is present perfect continuous, therefore the focus is on the activity.

Present Perfect Continuous: Structure

The present perfect continuous is comprised of the present perfect of the verb 'to be' (have/has been), and the present participle of the main verb (verb+ing).

Subject present perfect of be present participle
I/You/We/They have been painting
He/She/It has been sleeping

When we use the present perfect continuous tense in speaking, we often contract the subject and auxiliary verb 'have.'

I have been waiting for an hour. → I've been waiting for an hour.

She has been reading that book all day. → She's been reading that book all day.

Present Perfect Continuous: Negation

For negative sentences you put 'not' between the auxiliary verb 'have' and the auxiliary verb 'be.'

It has been raining. → It has not been raining.

We have been playing in the park. → We have not been playing in the park.

In negative sentences, we can contract the auxiliary verb 'have' and 'not.' See the examples:

It has not been raining. → It hasn't been raining.

We have not been playing in the park. → We haven't been playing in the park.

Present Perfect Continuous: Questions

For yes/no questions sentences, we change the place of the subject and 'have.' Look at these example sentences with the present perfect continuous tense:

I have been talking to her. → Have you been talking to her?

He has been doing his homework. → Has he been doing his homework?

For wh- question sentences, do the exact thing you do for yes/no questions and add the proper wh- question word at the beginning of the sentence and omit the part that is the answer.

I have been living in London. → Where have you been living?

here 'in London' is the answer therefore, it is omitted.

She's been writing emails. → What has she been doing?

Tip!

If you want to learn more about spelling rules of adding -ing to the base form of verbs, see here.

Present Perfect Continuous: Uses

Using Present Perfect Continuous to Talk about Past Action Still-ongoing

When someone uses the present perfect continuous, they are thinking about:

Recently-Finished Past Actions

We use the 'present perfect continuous tense' to talk about actions that have stopped recently, but we are interested in the results. It means the result is still obvious, but remember in this case, the focus is on the action, not the result. For example:

I'm tired because I've been running.

Why are you wet? Has it been raining?

Still-ongoing Past Actions

We use the 'present perfect continuous tense' to talk about an action that started in the past and is continuing now. This is often used with for or since. In this case, it is important to know that the action is still ongoing. Remember, we are referring to the duration of the action so, we do not use time expressions to make clear how many times the action was done. Check out the examples.

She has been waiting for you all day

It means she's still waiting now.

I've been working on this report since eight o'clock this morning

It means the speaker still hasn't finished it.

For and Since

We use 'since' with a fixed point in time in the past (2004, April 23rd, last year). The past simple tense indicates an action that took place at a fixed point in time. (since I was at school; since I arrived). We use 'for' with a period of time (2 hours, three years, six months). Take a look at the following examples.

I have been studying for three hours.

Joe hasn't been visiting us since December.

Temporary Situations

Actions or States

We use the 'present perfect continuous tense' to suggest states or actions that may change. For example:

They have been studying at the library, they must be here soon.

She has been playing in the mud, she takes a shower before leaving.

Development

We use the 'present perfect tense' to refer to new developments that you believe, may be temporary and you think they are about to change again. Check out the following examples for more clarification.

They have been making a lot of money over the month.

You have been gaining weight over your pregnancy.

When Not to Use Present Perfect Continuous Tense

We do not normally use the continuous with stative verbs (also called non-continuous verbs). These verbs are normally used in the simple form because they refer to states, rather than actions or progress. Use the simple present perfect with verbs such as 'know, hate, hear, understand, want.'

I've wanted to travel to USA for years.

I've heard a lot about Tim recently.

Review

Now that you followed the article you must know that the present continuous tense is mainly used when we are:

  1. talking about recently finished past actions.
  2. talking about actions which started in the past and are still continuing even now.

Structure, Contraction, Affirmative, Negative, and Question Forms

structure subject + have/has + been + v + -ing
affirmative Their mother has been cooking all day.
negative Their mother has not been cooking all day.
contraction Their mother's not been cooking all day./ Their mother hasn't been cooking all day.
yes/no question Has their mother been cooking all day?
-wh question Who has been cooking all day?

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