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)

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Mon, 06/11/2023 - 15:08

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I've been working all day, so I'm tired. Could you tell me whether the action is still going or already finished?

Hi Khangvo2812,

It could be either still going or already finished. We can't know from just these words alone, but other information from the context or the rest of the conversation may make it clear (e.g., if I say this while I'm doing work in my workplace, it's still going. If I say this to my family when I come home in the evening, it's clearly finished).

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Hello!

They call it "evidence of recent activity" in the presentation of the tense. So
your work is now done, finished, but the progress of it having been done recently is still reverberating into the present moment.

Submitted by Esraa.mohamed2020 on Thu, 19/10/2023 - 12:06

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good evening i have a question please
when say (Now that I ______ tidying the house, I'm going to clean it.)
why i should choose this answer
have finished not choose i've been finishing

Hi Esraa.mohamed2020,

The simple form (have finished) describes a completed activity. The continuous form (have been finishing) describes an activity that may continue into the present.

In this example, the phrase Now that ... strongly suggests the speaker is talking about an activity that is already completed, and not a continuing one. For the whole sentence, as well, we can understand the meaning as "tidying first, and then cleaning". (i.e., the tidying must be completed first, before starting the cleaning). That's why have finished is the right answer here.

Was that explanation clear? I hope so!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Amani Sweidan on Wed, 11/10/2023 - 08:06

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Good morning.
I have a question please.

We have been watching TV since yesterday.
Or
We were watching TV since yesterday!

As far as I know, with "since" we use present perfect continuous.
but also, there is the word yesterday in the sentence. (We use past tense)

So, my question is, shall we use present perfect continuous or past continuous? and why? .... Thank you!

Regards,
Amani Sweidan

Hi Amani Sweidan,

We have been watching ... is right. It's true that fixed points in past time (e.g. yesterday) are used with the past simple. We use them with actions that happened and ended in the past (e.g. We were watching TV yesterday). The action doesn't continue until the present.

But the phrase since yesterday means "from yesterday until now". It's a time period starting in the past and continuing into the present. That's why it's used with the present perfect.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Thu, 21/09/2023 - 10:21

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Hello,
I asked my teacher for what they did in class and my teacher answered me with present perfect continuous. Could you explain why he used the tense in that context?

Hi Khangvo2812,

It really depends what exactly your teacher said. The best person to answer this question is probably your teacher!

That said, if your teacher said something like "We've been practising vocabulary", it could be because the teacher wanted to emphasise the activity itself rather than any result of it, or because the teacher intends to continue it in future lessons. It's hard to know for sure without knowing what exactly was said and the context of your class.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by farangis.l on Thu, 14/09/2023 - 11:53

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Hi
In this sentence
Has someone (been eating /eaten)my special bread?There is only a little bit left.why is( been eating )correct?