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

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Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 02:27

In reply to by Maya.micheal

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Hi Maya.micheal,

You're right! Although all three examples start with the result of the action, the second sentence in each example focuses on the activity. The speaker is interested in what activity has caused the result that he/she can see. So, the present perfect continuous is the best choice here.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 08:10

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Hello team, I would like to ask some questions. e.g, Has someone been eating my special bread? There's only a little bit left. Why "been eating" is used? From the sentences, the special bread only a little bit left, which is the result. e.g, Have you always hated garlic? Why didn't use "been hating" to indicate the person always hates garlic? Thanks a lot.

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 20:44

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Dear Team, My teacher taught me a few sentences about present perfect and present.p.continuous but I'm still confused about those sentences. "Jonas is a writer. He writes mystery novels. He has written/has been writing (my teacher told me both present perfect and p.p.contin can be used.) since he was 18 years old. He has written 6 novels." Could you tell me why both tenses can be used? As far as I know, this is doing till now So we must definitely use Present Perfect Contin rather than Present Perfect. Thank you!!!
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 16:09

In reply to by DaniWeebKage

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Hello DaniWeebKage,

I'd encourage you to ask your teacher about that. There is probably some context (that I can't think of right now) in which present perfect simple would make sense there, but in general I think the continuous form is best.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Krik, Yes, I asked her about that. She told me that Present Perfect Can be used in "Changes over time'' Jonas does not write anything until he is 18 years old. He do write after 18. Does It make sense?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

It is possible to use the present simple tense to tell a story about the past -- if you follow the link and look at the 'Advanced' section on the page, you'll see some examples of this. I'm not sure if that's what you meant with your sentences about Jonas.

This use of the present simple is a little unusual -- people would normally use the past simple in these sentences (assuming that Jonas is now older): 'Jonas didn't write until he was 18'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khaled hasan on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 20:58

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Hello Sir, My teacher gave us a sentence as an example for the present perfect and it was the following (he is at rest now, he has driven for 2 hours) he said we used present perfect because the action is finished, but shouldn't it be present perfect continuous, since it focus on the continuity of the action(he got tired because of the action of driving itself, and not because he finished it)??
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 27/09/2020 - 09:23

In reply to by Khaled hasan

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Hello Khaled hasan,

Generally, the present perfect continuous is used in a context like this, but the present perfect simple is possible too. It really depends on what the speaker wants to emphasise and upon the broader context in which the sentence is used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

Submitted by Khaled hasan on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 09:52

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Hello Sir I have a problem in determining what tense should I use in these cases: 1- he has____(stay) with friends for too long. He needs to find a house of his own. 2-I think someone has____(use) my my phone. The battery is nearly dead.
Profile picture for user Jonathan R

Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 05:19

In reply to by Khaled hasan

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Hi Khaled hasan,

Yes, your sentences are tricky! 

In sentence 1, I'd say he's been staying (present perfect continuous). The continuous tense emphasises the duration of the activity (for too long). 

In sentence 2, I'd say has been using (present perfect continuous). Again, this emphasises that the activity went on a long time, and somebody didn't just use the phone for a moment. That fits the situation, since the battery is nearly dead. 

But, I would also say that in real life usage, different answers are acceptable. For example, in sentence 1 we could say he's stayed (present perfect simple) if we want to give a sense that the situation (staying with friends) has reached a point where it must end and cannot continue. We might emphasise different things in different contexts of speaking.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team