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: 4.7 (31 votes)
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Submitted by HanaNguyn on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 11:14

Hi, Could you explain the first question on test 2 for me? I thought the answer must be "have been hating" because it focuses on the activity - "hating". Thank you so much
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 16:29

In reply to by HanaNguyn


Hello HanaNguyn

That's good thinking, but we don't generally use stative verbs in continuous tenses. If you follow the link and look for the section called 'Stative verbs', you'll see an explanation of this there.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by KarenFaraco on Wed, 06/05/2020 - 21:01

Hello! I'd appreciate if you could help me with this one. If I'm telling a friend about my summer, which is better? A) I've been playing a lot of tennis this summer B) I played a lot of tennis this summer I'd choose A, but I've seen people choosing B as well. If "this summer" is still related to the present, shouldn't it be at least "I've played a lot of..." instead of simple past? Thanks in advance! :)
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 06:55

In reply to by KarenFaraco


Hello KarenFaraco

If it's still the summer when you say this and if you are still playing tennis, then A would be correct. B indicates either that the summer is over or that you have finished playing tennis (although it could possibly still be the summer).

Let us know if you have any other questions.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Grammar on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 08:14

Hello there! I have a question. I am never late for school. Is school object of am in the above sentence ? . Would u make this clear for me? Thanks

Hello Grammar

No, 'school' is the object of the preposition 'for'. The subject is 'I' and 'late for school' is an adjectival phrase -- here it is the complement of the verb 'am'. The verb 'am' is a linking verb in this case; it doesn't really have an object but rather gives more information about the subject.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by maazbin on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 20:52

Hi, I have a little confusion in continuous and present perfect continuous. Like an example here "I have been in isolation since April 21". Could i use 'I am' here?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 07:29

In reply to by maazbin


Hi maazbin,

I'm afraid I'm rather confused about what you mean. The example you give is not continuous in any way. It is a simple present perfect with verb be.

I think if you want us to comment on alternatives it's better to write both sentences out in full. Otherwise we risk giving a misleading answer.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the guidance. i m new here. 1)The sentence is "I have been in isolation since April 21" could i write "I am in isolation since April 21"? 2) One of my teacher said that there is no difference between present continuous and present perfect continuous but only an emphasis in perfect cntnuous. I am a bit confused here.

Hello again maazbin,

If you use since then the present perfect is necessary here (have been) because it describes a situation starting in the past and continuing up to the present. You could use the present simple (am) without since. This would describe the current situation without reference to when it started.

I have been in isolation since April 21.

I am in isolation.


Neither of these sentences are continuous. In the first sentence the verb is present perfect simple. In the second it is present simple.



The LearnEnglish Team