Present perfect simple and continuous

Present perfect simple and continuous

Do you know the difference between We've painted the room and We've been painting the room? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how the present perfect simple and continuous are used.

We've painted the bathroom. 
She's been training for a half-marathon.
I've had three coffees already today!
They've been waiting for hours.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Present perfect simple and present perfect continuous: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use both the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) and the present perfect continuous (have or has + been + -ing form) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.

Focusing on result or activity

The present perfect simple usually focuses on the result of the activity in some way, and the present perfect continuous usually focuses on the activity itself in some way. 

Present perfect simple Present perfect continuous
Focuses on the result Focuses on the activity
You've cleaned the bathroom! It looks lovely! I've been gardening. It's so nice out there.
Says 'how many' Says 'how long'
She's read ten books this summer. She's been reading that book all day.
Describes a completed action Describes an activity which may continue
I've written you an email.  I've been writing emails.
  When we can see evidence of recent activity
  The grass looks wet. Has it been raining?
I know, I'm really red. I've been running!

Ongoing states and actions

We often use for, since and how long with the present perfect simple to talk about ongoing states.

How long have you known each other?
We've known each other since we were at school. 

We often use for, since and how long with the present perfect continuous to talk about ongoing single or repeated actions.

How long have they been playing tennis?
They've been playing tennis for an hour.
They've been playing tennis every Sunday for years.

Sometimes the present perfect continuous can emphasise that a situation is temporary.

I usually go to the gym on the High Street, but it's closed for repairs at the moment so I've been going to the one in the shopping centre. 

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Present perfect simple and present perfect continuous: 2

Language level

Average: 4.4 (122 votes)
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Submitted by hj1992 on Thu, 16/04/2020 - 14:03

Hi Could you please answer the following question? Does this sentence "I know, I'm really red. I've been running!" means that the speaker is still running? If not, can being red be the result of running and and we should use present perfect form?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 16/04/2020 - 14:22

In reply to by hj1992


Hello hj1992

In this case, it means that the speaker stopped running very recently, recent enough that the redness in their face is the result of their running. As the chart above states, the redness is evidence of recent activity (the running).

If the speaker were still running at the time they said this, then 'I'm running' would be the verb form to use to show this.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by 83roman on Thu, 09/04/2020 - 17:53

Can we change the place of " already" in this sentence ? I've had three coffees already today!

Hello 83roman,

Adverbs are often very flexible in terms of their position and you can move already in this sentence. All of these are perfectly fine:

I've had three coffees already today!

I've already had three coffees today!

I've had three coffees today already!



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manuelver on Tue, 24/03/2020 - 18:21

these questions are not difficult but this kind of exercises can help us with some doubts in our day to day

Submitted by adawi on Thu, 05/03/2020 - 05:58

I've got the first question wrong. I thought it should be I've been always hating garlic, because I focus on the action \ feeling not the result.

Submitted by ProEnglishLess… on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 12:07

I gottes 1/8 ich think that i docent very guud english leson

Submitted by Habijak on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 08:06

Hello there! I have a question. Can I use present perfect simple for an action that started in the past and still continues? I mean can I say "I've learnt English for 2 months" instead of "I've been learning English for 2 months" They seem the same and I'm confused. Would u make this clear for me? Thanks

Hello Habijak,

It is not grammatically incorrect to use the simple form, but the continuous is much more likely since learning is inherently an ongoing process.

The simple form would suggest that two months was the goal, not the actual learning. For example, if a friend made a bet with you in which he or she said that you would quit before the end of two months, then you might say triumphantly at the end something like this: 'You said I couldn't do it, but I've leant English for two months now.'



The LearnEnglish Team