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 (110 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Hello sachin penguin,

There are many different ways the present perfect is used, and they are all connected to the situation the communication is happening in. In general, it refers to a past time that is somehow connected to the present.

There are several pages on LearnEnglish that I would refer you to for more details and specific examples.

We're also happy to answer any more specific questions you have. Answering very general ones takes quite a lot of effort and is just a repeat of what you can find on these pages.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Amani Sweidan on Fri, 05/05/2023 - 22:41

Permalink

Hello,
I have a question please!

Which statement is correct and why?

I haven't slept all night long.
I haven't been sleeping all night long.

Thank you!

Hello Amani Sweidan,

The first one ('haven't slept') is the most natural choice here.

Generally, we use the present perfect continuous form (have been + verbing) when an activity is ongoing over a period of time, is unfinished or is repeated over a period of time. For example:

> I have been working very hard recently. [an ongoing activity]

> She has been reading Romeo and Juliet. [an unfinished activity]

> They have been seeing the doctor about this for a few months. [a repeated activity]

 

We use the simple form (have + verb3) when we see an action as a single fact with a present result, especially when we consider it complete. In your example, the person is reporting at the end of the night, so it is a completed action with a present result.

You could use the continuous form if the situation were repeated and ongoing. For example: I haven't been sleeping well for weeks.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr. Peter
I would like share you my question.
At the lesson, I saw this example:
Use present perfect continous. Says " how long"
- She's been reading that book all day.

And according to your answer. The person can be also reporting at the end of the day, so it is a completed action with a present result. Can we use the simple form (have + verb3) : She has read that book all day. ?

Similarly, the sentence "I haven't been sleeping all night long". is not wrong. It is just not as natural as " I haven't slept all night long". Isn't it?

Thank you very much!

Hello Violet Xuan,

Yes, that's right. In the first example I think 'has been reading' is still more likely because the focus is on the duration or the effort of the task rather than the achievement, but I agree that both are possible. In the second example I think the simple is much more natural, as you say, and the continuous is unlikely as it would be suggestive of a repeated or ongoing situation, as I said in an earlier answer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MgKanKaung on Thu, 04/05/2023 - 07:53

Permalink

Thanks for your lesson and I have some confused things to ask you. From test 1, I chose the wrong answer for no.3, why can't we choose the answer "eaten".
And, for no.5 I think we can use both answers, let me get this straight please.

Hello MgKanKaung,

Re: 3, if you say 'eaten', it means that all of the special bread is gone. Since the next sentence shows that some bread is left, it's not correct to say 'eaten'.

Re: 5, the end of the sentence ('and soon I'm going to be using it') shows that the time being talked about is still happening. This is why the continuous form is correct. A perfect simple form is incongruous since it suggests the end of a time period.

Hope that helps!

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by farnoush1989 on Tue, 25/04/2023 - 06:02

Permalink

Would you please explain me the differences between these two sentences?
I have taught English for ten years.
I have been teaching English for ten years.
Thank you so much.

Hello farnoush1989,

As the information on the page says, the difference here is one of emphasis, or how the speaker chooses to see the action, rather than meaning. The continuous form (have been teaching) emphasises the ongoing and unfinished nature of the activity, while the simple form focuses on the achievement or total. Neither tells us whether or not the activity is complete, though the continuous generally suggests that it is not while the simple may indicate in certain contexts that it is.

You can read more information on the topic here:

present perfect simple

present perfect continuous

present perfect simple or present perfect continuous

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team