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Mastering the Present Perfect Continuous: A Guide to Clear Communication

Week 6 is here! Only one more week to go in this mini grammar revision course! If you've missed any of the previous posts in the course, check them out here:


Present Simple

Present Continuous

Past Simple

Past Continuous

Present Perfect Simple


Today we're talking about the present perfect continuous. This tense is mainly used to talk about an action that started in the past and is still in progress in the present (there are, of course, exceptions). We use this tense to emphasize for how long an action has been in progress. It's different than the present perfect simple in many ways, so don't confuse them!

 

Formation and Structure


To form a sentence in the present perfect continuous, you need the helping or auxiliary verb "have" ("has" for the 3rd person singular) + BEEN + the gerund form of the verb. No irregulars to remember here thankfully!


Subject + have/has + been + gerund

I have been cooking (all morning).

She has been working since 8a.m.

 

Significance and Usage


Just as we saw with the present perfect simple, there are some basic rules that you need to know before getting into the specifics:

  1. The present perfect continuous implies that an action started in the past and is still in progress now, but will eventually end (temporary situation).

  2. It is used to say "for how long" an action has been in progress, but just like with the present perfect simple, it is never used to say exactly when.

Now we can see the rules and some examples of how to use it!

Rule or Use

Example

​Use when you want to say how long an action has been in progress for (the action is not finished).

She's been running for 4 hours/since 8 a.m.! She must be exhausted!


*for + number

*since + moment in time

Use it to talk about an action that has been in progress for some time, but will finish in the future (temporary situation).

He's been living in the UK for the past 5 years, but he wants to return to Italy.

Use it to talk about a recent change in routine with the words recently and lately.

  • I haven't been sleeping well lately, I think it's because I'm stressed!

  • He's been travelling a lot this month, hopefully next month he is home more.

Use it to talk about an action that may or may not be finished (this isn't important) but that has a very visible consequence in the present.

  • Alex the dog, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN EATING?? Your face is all brown!

  • I've been cooking all morning, sorry the kitchen is so messy!


 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Just like with the present perfect simple, you must not say when exactly something happened. The present perfect continuous can be used to say for how long, but not when. For example, "I have been running in 2021" is incorrect. "I have been running for 2 hours" is correct.

  2. Don't forget to use the auxiliary verb "have/has" and "been" before your main verb

  3. Don't forget to change your main verb into its gerund form.


Here's your downloadable grammar guide, see you next week for the final tense, the future!



 

Glossary

  • get into [a topic]: informal to say "start" or "begin" something

  • messy: informal synonym for dirty, disorganized, untidy

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