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Present perfect simple and continuous

Do you know the difference between We've painted the room and We've been painting the room?

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

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Dear BC,

could you please tell me the difference

1) you were absolutely right from the beginning

2) You have been absolutely right from the beginning

I heard 1) in loki series.....but i know second one is also possible according to grammar rules

So could you please elaborate on this using examples

Hi lima9795,

The basic meaning is very similar, but sentence 2 using the present perfect emphasises the action ('you being right') happening over time and continuing until the present moment, while sentence 1 presents it as something that happened in the past. You're right that both are grammatically possible.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, thanks a lot for your great explanation.
I still have to understand more about what you said as "current situation" in your last paragraph. Could you possibly give me some examples?
Below please find the sample sentences I presented in my previous postings and would be glad if you would help me point out which ones convey the idea of "current situation".

[1] I already know the answer. No need to explain anymore.
[2] Do you already know him very well?
[3] I already understand you perfectly. I cannot get you wrong.
[4] I don't have this sports car yet.
[5] I hope you don't already subscribe.
[6] If you don't already know this word, please check it out.

Your other examples using different stative verbs would be appreciated.

Best regards,

Hi melvinthio,

By current situation I mean a sentence which describes what is true now without reference how long it has been true. For example:

I live in Paris - current situation

I've lived in Paris for five years - reference to how long/since when

 

With regard to the sentences you list, all of them describe a current situation. That's not to say the present perfect cannot be used if the sentences were changed to make them more general - after all, you would be talking about all your life rather than one specific moment. However, it's possible to think of a context in which even a specific element occurs throughout a person's life:

I don't have this sports car yet. [current situation]

I've had this sports car three times already (and I sold it every time because I didn't like it). [in my life]

 

I hope that helps to claritfy this for you. We have a lot of users on the site who have a lot of questions and we're a small team here, so there is a limit to how much detail we can put into our answers to any particular user, and how much time we can spend on any one particular topic or line of questions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, thanks so much for your excellent explanation.
Now, I understand that it is more natural and in practice, people are much more likely to use the simple present tense instead of the present perfect tense without time expressions with the stative verbs such as "know, understand, have, etc" as mentioned in the 4 sample sentences I cited in my previous posting.
I've just read from the online English discussion forum about the usage of "I have already known". They explain that :
[1] For "knowing a person", we can say "I have already known", e.g. I have already known many people in this area.
[2] But for "knowing a fact or how to do something", we cannot say it.

Question:
What would be your opinion about the statement in [1] ? Is it right that we can use the present perfect tense without a time expression only when it refers to "knowing a person" ?

I would be grateful for your help.

Best regards,

Hello melvinthio,

It's perfectly acceptable to use the present perfect with stative verbs of this type when referring to experience in our lives. For example, your sentence describes the speaker's life experience:

I've known many people in this area.

Here are some similar examples with other stative verbs. In each example you can omit the time reference:

I've believed in several gods (during my life).

I've loved three people (in my life).

I've owned four houses (over the years).

I've had a house with a garden. It was too much work!

As you can see, the key point in whether you are talking about life experiences or not, not whether or not you are talking about people.

 

When you talk about a current situation then the present simple is much more likely whether you are talking about people or objects, unless you include a time reference such as for... or since...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, thanks a lot for your great explanation.
I'd assume that not all stative verbs, (such as "have / know / understand, etc") would have two meanings : as an action verb as well as a stative verb (like the word "subscribe" you explained).

[1] Is my assumption right ?

If my assumption is right, I would make a conclusion that pure stative verbs, which describe a state rather than an action, can only be used with the simple present tense and cannot be used with the present perfect tense without any time adverbs like "for", "since", etc. to show that they are functioning as stative verbs.

E.g. :
[A] I already know the answer. No need to explain anymore.
[B] Do you already know him very well?
[C] I already understand you perfectly. I cannot get you wrong.
[D] I don't have this sports car yet.

[2] Is my conclusion right that the above sentences cannot be used with the present perfect tense without any time expressions ?

I would highly appreciate your explanation on this matter.

Best regards,

Hi Melvin,

[1] Yes, right!

[2] Generally that's the right idea. But I wouldn't say that stative verbs in the present perfect cannot be used in those sentences. I don't think we can prescribe a grammatical rule in that way, because it is grammatically possible to use them, and I'm sure we could see or hear examples of people using them. One reason for this is that the context of the conversation might make a time reference obvious, even if it's not mentioned in that sentence. Another reason is that people don't always speak in ideal or perfect sentences.

 

But, if a particular structure makes the speaker's intended meaning complicated or unclear, despite being grammatically correct, speakers are less likely to use it, and probably choose simpler forms instead. (That's what I would recommend too.) That's why I say that it's 'unlikely' to be used, rather than the absolute statement that 'it cannot be used'.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, thank you very much for your explanation.
If we use a verb that shows a regular action, a state in the present, or something that is always true (as opposed to single action verbs) such as "have / possess / know / understand / like, etc" in the "already + negative" structure, can we use both the simple present tense and the present perfect tense, or we should use only the simple tense ?
E.g. :
[1] I hope you don't already subscribe.
(......haven't already subscribed.)
[2] If you don't already know this word, please check it out (.....haven't already known......)
[3] It's strange that you don't already have a mobile phone. (.......haven't already had........)

I would be extremely grateful to you for your explanation.

Best regards,

Hi Melvin,

Yes, those present perfect versions are grammatically possible, but I would say they are relatively unlikely to be used. Stative verbs in the present perfect are often used when we want to focus on the length of time by adding a time expression (e.g. I've known this word for years … / You haven't had a new mobile phone since you left school …), but these would make the example sentences quite complicated (e.g., If you haven't already known this word for years, check it out - correct, but complicated). Speakers would most likely choose a simpler way to say these (i.e., using simple verb tenses).

 

Note that in example 1, the verb subscribe can mean (1) the action of starting a subscription, i.e. a single action, or (2) the state of being a subscriber (i.e., a stative verb - e.g. I subscribe to 'News' magazine / I've subscribed to 'News' magazine for years). If you say haven’t already subscribed, without any time expression to show that it’s intended as a stative verb, I would understand it as a single action - meaning number (1). I think it would also be common to use action verbs in the other examples too, rather than stative ones in the present perfect, e.g. If you haven’t already learned this word … / It’s strange that you haven’t already bought/got a mobile phone 

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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