Present Perfect Continuous Tense in English Grammar

Present Perfect Continuous Tense in English Grammar

The present perfect continuous tense is a special tense in terms of time. Why? Because it connects the present and the past. Let’s see how.

Present Perfect Continuous Tense in English Grammar

Present Perfect Continuous

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 question sentences, we exchange 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 ?

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

Present Participle: Spelling Rules

We make the Present Participle by adding -ing to the verb. Normally we just add -ing. But sometimes we have to change the word a little. Here are the rules to help you know how to spell the Present Participle:

  • If the verb ends in consonant + stressed vowel + consonant, double the last letter.

stop → stopping

run → running

  • If the verb ends in consonant + unstressed vowel + consonant, (the base verb is not stressed) do not double the last letter.

open → opening

  • If the verb ends in 'ie', change the 'ie' to 'y'.

lie → lying

die → dying

  • If the verb ends in vowel + consonant + 'e', omit the 'e'.

come → coming

mistake → mistaking

Present Perfect Continuous: Uses

When someone uses the present 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.

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 action that started in the past and is continuing now. This is often used with for or since.

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 fixed time can be another action, which is in the past simple (since I was at school, since I arrived). We use 'for' with a period of time (2 hours, three years, six months).

I have been studying for three hours .

Joe hasn't been visiting us since December .

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 progresses. 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 .

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