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 (120 votes)

Hello Team.
In Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use; 2nd edition Page 6 unit 3, I found the following sentence "Have you met any of your neighbours since you've lived here?" The book used "have met". What do you say? or what is the difference between my question and this sentence?
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

OK, yes - let me make a correction. It IS a correct sentence if the intended meaning is "I have met John in that time period" (i.e. from September to now).

Reading the original sentence, that meaning did not occur to me at first, perhaps because without knowing the context in which this is said, it is unclear why September is significant for the speaker. That's why I interpreted the sentence as about the length of time that the person has known John. (In this meaning, the significance of September is clear - it's the time that John and the speaker first met.)

Perhaps this is a good example of the importance of the context for interpreting meaning :)

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Fri, 18/06/2021 - 16:25

Hi Jonathan, thanks for your explanation about the usage of the word "ever" (= at any time). I gather that if we want to use it in affirmative sentences, we should use it in relative clauses. I'm on the way of developing a correct understanding about this usage and would highly appreciate if you could help me correct and comment on the following sentences: [1] Any house that has ever been built in this area is luxurious. (= built at any time) [2] All the cars that ever pass this street have to be checked for safety. (= pass at any time) [3] Every lesson I've ever made is offered for free. (made at any time). [4] This drug is good for people who have ever suffered from cancer. (suffered at any time) Best regards, Melvin

Hi Melvin,

The sentences are grammatically fine. In all four sentences, the ‘at any time’ meaning is already conveyed by other words (any house / all the cars / every lesson / people who have suffered), so ‘ever’ can be deleted without changing the basic meaning of the sentences, and I think many speakers would ordinarily leave ‘ever’ out from those sentences – unless they were in situations where they wanted to make that particular emphasis.

But, sentence 3 is more common than the others, because it contains a commonly used phrase: every ___ I’ve ever ___ (e.g. everything I’ve ever done / every man I’ve ever known / every film I’ve ever seen).

Also, it’s true that ever is often used in relative clauses, but it’s not limited to that. For example:

  • It was the best birthday ever.
  • He was the first person ever to climb that mountain.
  • All I ever wanted was a stable job.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 29/05/2021 - 10:36

Hello. Which sentence is correct correct? I think No. 1 is wrong. 1- Are you sleeping any better since you've been taking the pills? 2- Have you been sleeping any better since you've been taking the pills? Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I think both are possible and there's really little difference in meaning as both are asking about an open time period.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 28/05/2021 - 17:54

Hello. What is the difference in meaning please? - I have watched TV all night. Now I’m going to bed. - I have been watching TV all night. Now I’m going to bed. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The difference here is one of emphasis. The simple form emphasises the result of a particular action - my eyes are tired, I'm bored with TV etc. The continuous form emphasises the effort or duration of an activity - this is too much TV, the evening was a waste of time etc. Both are possible; the choice is up to the speaker and what they want to communicate.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maahir on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 11:40

Hi The LearnEnglish Team, I am somehow confused about the answers of these two questions. 1- Have you always ___ garlic? A- hated B- been hating 2- Has someone ___ my special bread? There's only a little bit left. A- eaten B- been eating. I have chosen A,A and it says the correct answers are B,B instead. May you kindly explain it a little more? Thanks