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English grammar explanations (present perfect continuous).

Understanding present perfect continuous.

The basics - structure:

The syntax of the structure is: subject + auxiliary verb "have" or "has" + been + verb root + ing:

It has been raining all day.

I've been working here for six months now.

John has been going out with Mary since March last year.


Question forms:

We make inversion between the subject and the auxiliary "have" or "has":

Have you been waiting long?

Has he been watching television since he came home from work?

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Negative forms:

We use "not", which combines with the auxiliary to make a negative sentence:

I haven't been jogging recently.

John hasn't been eating well for weeks.

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Present perfect continuous - use in real life:

Completed actions compared with continuous actions.

Before reading this, you should have studied present perfect simple 2...

1) Both present perfect simple and continuous show a connection to the present:

I've done three English exercises since 6 o'clock.

I've been doing three English exercises since 6 o'clock.

In the first sentence (simple form), the speaker means that he/she started the three exercises at 6 o'clock and now they are finished. The second sentence, (continuous form) expresses an action that began in the past (at 6 o'clock) and is continuing in the present (and will probably continue into the future).

The idea of finished actions in present perfect simple and continuing actions in present perfect continuous can also be seen in these examples:

I've read your report. It was very interesting. (finished action)

I've been reading your report. It seems very interesting. (continuing action)
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Temporary actions.

Furthermore, present perfect continuous can also express actions which are considered temporary:

I've been staying with my parents for a few weeks until I find a job.

...while present perfect simple expresses a more permanent situation:

She's driven the same car all her life.

The result of an action.

A close link to a present situation can be expressed with present perfect continuous when we see the result of some recently finished action:

- Why are you so hot? - I've been running.

- You're covered in paint! - Yes, I've been painting the house all morning.

In this last case (3), present perfect simple is not possible as an answer because it does not stress the continuity of the action. Let's compare the above with this next example:

(A husband comes in with a broken lamp in his hand. His wife says:) "Oh, no. What have you done?!"
"I've broken the lamp."

In this last example, the wife is also asking about a finished action but one which happens at a moment in time (without stress on the continuity) ie. the lamp broke in an instant.     top arrow

Verbs not usually used in present perfect continuous.

As with other continuous forms of the verbs of English, we should remember that we cannot normally make continuous forms of stative verbs: "have" (possessive), "be", "like", "see" (with your eyes), "want" etc. In these cases we use present perfect simple even though the context is a continuing one:

I've had these shoes a week.

It's been cloudy all morning.

I've liked that boy for a long time now.


In colloquial English especially, you will often hear some stative verbs used in the present perfect continuous:

I've been having problems with the car recently.

I've been wanting to talk to you.

- Exercises on present perfect continuous...

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