Present perfect continuous tense

The present perfect continuous is used for an action that started in the past and continues to the present.  In other words, the action is still ongoing.  The present perfect can also be used, but can sometimes be confusing because it is also used in 2 other situations.  Therefore, it’s a good idea if you have a choice between the present perfect and the present perfect continuous that you choose the present perfect continuous.

This tense is formed with 3 verbs: the auxiliary have or has, the past participle been, and the present participle (verb + ing)

The words for and since are often used with this tense

They have been living in that house for twenty years. (and they still do (ongoing))
She’s been taking piano lessons since she was five years old.  (and she still does (ongoing))

Watch out for the word for, and use the simple past if the action is finished.

She lived in California for ten years.  (She doesn’t live there anymore (not ongoing))
I babysat the neighbor’s daughter for two weeks last summer.  (This happened last summer (not ongoing))

Also, use the present perfect continuous with all day, all week, and any other time periods that are not yet finished. If the time period is finished, however, then use the simple past.

We’ve been waiting all day to hear the results.  (It’s still the same day.)
We waited all day to hear the results.  (It’s now the following day.)
I have been trying to call her all week, but she isn’t answering her phone.  (It’s still that same week.)
I tried to call her all last week, but she didn’t answer her phone.  (It’s now the following week.)
Have you been sleeping all morning?  (It’s still morning.)
Did you sleep all morning?  (It’s now the afternoon.)

Also, use the present perfect continuous with the question how long.

How long have you been playing the piano?
How long has she been modeling?

When you use these verbs, do not use the present perfect continuous but use the present perfect only:

be                believe           belong          exist             forget            hate

have*          hear                know             like                love             need

own            possess           prefer           remember     see           understand        want

* when “have” means “possess,” not when “have” means “experience.”

If you have these words: so far, to date, and up to now, use only the present perfect even though the verbs seem ongoing.

So far we’ve made $160 washing cars.  (and we’re still washing cars (ongoing))
To date I’ve seen six of his films.  (and I will continue to watch more (ongoing))
The dogs have been very quiet up to now.  (and they are still quiet (ongoing))

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© 2013 Ambien Malecot


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