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

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Language level

B1 English level (intermediate)

Submitted by Victoria7 on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 20:06

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Hello, I have a question as regards the difference between these two tenses. Is it true that both tenses are used to describe situations that are still happening in the present (apart from the other uses)? That is, if I say 'I've been here since Friday' it implies that I'm still here or 'I've driven 500 kilometres' could imply that I've reached that amount and I'm still driving.
I can see the differences between the two tenses but at the same time they seem really subtle. Could they be interchangeable in most cases (not when using stative verbs)?
Thanks in advance

Hi Victoria7,

Good question! Yes, right - both the simple and continuous forms have the 'continuing in the present' meaning (among other meanings). But in my view, I don't think they are interchangeable in most cases. Although in some cases both forms are possible, changing from simple to continuous (or vice versa) will result in a difference in meaning or emphasis. 

I think that the meanings and emphases of the two forms and the differences between them are difficult to see clearly because learning materials (such as the page above) give short example sentences, with only minimal context. But the context is quite important - in real-life language usage, people don't only use grammar to communicate meaning. For example, if somebody says a sentence such as "I've driven 500 kilometres", they probably wouldn't just say that sentence alone. They might say, for example:

  • "I've driven 500 kilometres so far and I'm still not out of petrol" (i.e., a continuing action, and focusing on the result - there's still petrol left).
  • Or, perhaps somebody arrives home and says "I'm really tired. I've driven 500 kilometres today and I just want to take a rest." (i.e. completed action).

So, I would say that in real-life language use, the differences may be more apparent. In learning exercises, there isn't usually enough space to show the context clearly.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

and are "I've slept since 9 am//I've been sleeping since 9 am" both possible? Because I've seen a video where the first sentence is labelled as incorrect and the second is the one that should be used, with no further context but the sole sentence.

Hi Victoria7,

I think the simple and continuous forms are both grammatically possible, but when the speaker's intended focus is 'how long', the continuous form is typically used.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Critical Eyes on Sun, 31/07/2022 - 18:12

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Because I am not a native English speaker, I would like to know whether the following sentences are correct or not. Thanks

He reads the comic book every day.
He is reading the comic book. (Now)
He has read the comic book. (The book is finished.)
He has been reading the comic book. (The book is still being read.)

The police arrested Peter and his friends yesterday.
When the police arrested Peter and his friends yesterday, they were playing poker.
When the police arrested Peter and his friends yesterday, they had played three poker games.
When the police arrested Pete and his friends yesterday, they had been playing poker for 2 hours.

We will have a party tomorrow.
When John arrives at the party tomorrow, Jenny will be singing.
When John arrives at the party tomorrow, Jenny will have sung five songs.
When John arrives at the party tomorrow, Jenny will have been singing for 30 minutes.

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 07/06/2022 - 12:54

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Hello team. Could you please help me? In the following sentence, I think both forms are OK. What is the difference then?
- He (has worked - has been working) for the company since he was twenty-five. He enjoys his work there.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Yes - both forms are correct. In this context the difference is only one of emphasis.

The simple form (has worked) treats the work as a single block - as an achievement, if you like.  The person may or may not continue to work for the company into the future.

The continuous form emphasises the process of work and tends to suggest that the work is ongoing and that the person will continue to work for the company into the future.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have extracted this from your explanation
We use present perfect to talk about achievements as well.

Hello again _Shafaque_,

Yes, that's correct. In my answer to your other question I gave an example using the context of reading a book which I think should help to clarify it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by maruu1978 on Sun, 29/05/2022 - 03:43

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Like, yea i like it

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Submitted by aymanme2 on Sat, 21/05/2022 - 08:57

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Hello, sirs.
I came across this question:
I ___ many relatives recently.
a] have met
b] have been meeting
I think both options are possible as there's no complete context. In addition, I know that 'recently' can be used with both forms and the past simple tense as well.
What do you think?

Hello aymanme2,

I agree that both forms are grammatically possible. The continuous form (b) would suggest a repeated action - many different meetings over a period of time - while the simple form (a) could also describe meeting many relatives in a single meeting.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, sir.
I got it.
However, to be more sure of my understanding, does 'many relatives' make any difference as I have found out that we usually use the present perfect simple to specify a particular number of times/things.
Ex.
I've written two essays this week. [ not have been writing]
I mean does the word 'many' and alike make the simple form more appropriate/

Hello again aymanme2,

You're right that adding a specific quantity tends to suggest a simple form. This is because specific quantities are often associated with lists of completed tasks or achievements rather than time spent on a particular activity. Thus, 'I've written two essays this week' answers the question 'How many essays have you written?' rather than 'What have you been doing?' or 'How have you been spending your time?'

In your original sentence I don't think 'many' has the same effect. Partly this is because it is not a clear quantity like a number but mainly it is because the action described is not one with any real finishing point or sense of completion. Meeting relatives does not have an end point in the same way that reading a book has.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have a query here.
Present perfect (in this case 'have written' or have met) suggests completion of the action.
If the act of writing Or meeting is accomplished then present perfect would be used.
If the action is still continued, whether with many of the specified objects, then present perfect continuous should be used.
Kindly explain

Hello _Shafaque_,

The present perfect simple often shows completion of a task or activity: I've read the book [It's finished].

The present perfect continuous often suggests that the task or activity is not complete: I've been reading the book [I'm in the middle of it].

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Pothecat_06 on Fri, 20/05/2022 - 16:10

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How Do I teach this to my friend, she is French-German and is learning this but she is having a difficult time with it, can someone help me.

Hello Pothecat_06,

I think the best way is through examples, particularly examples which provide a clear contrast. For example:

I've read the book. [it's finished]

I've been reading the book. [it's probably not finished]

It can be useful to translate sentences like this into your (her) own language as it helps to show how different concepts are expressed. For example, in English we distinguish between completed past actions (past simple) and actions in the past with a present result (present perfect); many other languages do not. Seeing the differences between languages can be very enlightening.

 

I hope those suggestions help.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 23/04/2022 - 09:03

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Hello Team. Is it correct to use "already" or "just" in present perfect continuous?
- I have already been cooking for 2 hours.
- I had already been waiting for them for 10 minutes before they came.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Yes, it would be a little unnatural to use 'already' in both of the sentences you mention, but in general I'd say it's possible to use 'already' and 'just' with present perfect continuous or past perfect continuous.

In the first sentence, if the purpose of the sentence is to emphasise that you've already put a lot of time into cooking, there's no need to say 'already' -- saying 'I've been cooking for 2 hours' communicates this idea very clearly and emphatically by itself. But I wouldn't say it's wrong to say 'already', just a bit unusual.

In the second, if I were going to use 'already', I'd probably change the end: 'I'd already been waiting for them for 10 minutes when they arrived'. 'when they arrived' talks about a point in time and recreates my experience of that moment in time, which seems more appropriate than 'before they came', which has a more detached, general perspective. But again, I wouldn't say the sentence you mention is incorrect.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 11/04/2022 - 21:43

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Hello team. Could you please tell me which sentence is correct? If both are correct, what is the difference?
1- My brother had written short stories for three years before he published them.
2- My brother had been writing short stories for three years before he published them.
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Both are correct, but I think sentence 2 (past perfect continuous) is more likely to be used than sentence 1 because the continuous structure, which highlights the duration of the action, supports the meaning of "for three years".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Wed, 08/12/2021 - 09:32

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Hi Jonathan,
I'd like to ask for your help.
Webster's online dictionary cites the following sample sentence :

In past winters(=in winters past), we have had much more snow.

Questions:
[1] Would it be grammatically correct to use the present perfect tense with a past time adverbial (i.e. in past winters or in winters past) ?

[2] If so, could I say this sentence ?

In past exhibitions, they have sold more cars.

I would highly appreciate your explanation. Thank you.

Hi melvinthio,

Good question! Let's compare two sentences.

1. In past winters, we HAD much more snow. (past simple)
2. In past winters, we HAVE HAD much more snow. (present perfect)

In sentence 1, the focus is the amount of snow in the past (i.e., the past is the topic of the conversation that this sentence appears in).

In sentence 2 (present perfect), the focus is not the past but the present - i.e., the amount of snow at the present moment, and how it is less than in the past. The past is mentioned just as a contrast to the present.

So, in the context of keeping the conversation focused on the present, not the past (e.g. "we have had much more snow than THIS"), I think most people would find sentence 2 grammatically acceptable. But if the conversation was all about the past, without comparing it to the present, sentence 2 would be unacceptable.

I think it also helps the acceptability that the time phrase is rather general - "in past winters" - and can be understood as similar to other general past time references which are compatible with the present perfect (e.g. "before"). A more specific phrase (e.g. "In the winter of 2015, we have had much more snow") would probably make the present perfect less acceptable, perhaps because it indicates relatively more emphasis on the past than the present.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ngoc on Sun, 26/09/2021 - 16:16

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Hi, I'm a little bit confused about the three sentences in the grammar test 1 [1] I've choped onions. (my answer) When I did, I thought that he has done this action and crying is the result of it [2] They've been scoring four goals and it's only half-time (my answer) I chose the present perfect continuous because that action may continue (only half-time and they can still score) [3] Has someone eaten my special bread (my answer) I thought that this is a completed action, and a little bit of bread is t he results Please explain it to me, thank you!

Hello again ngoc,

In 1, you are right in thinking that the crying is the result of the chopping -- it is the result of recent activity. In this kind of situation where the results of an action which is either still happening or which just recently happened, we often use the present perfect continuous form.

In 2, you are right in thinking that the match will continue (and therefore they could score again), but the present moment in the sentence is the half-time period, which is a time when no goals can be scored. Here there is a focus on the result. If we changed the timeframe to a longer one -- for example, the past three months -- we could say 'They've been scoring four goals every match the past few months' and that would be correct.

In 3, I can see how it makes sense that the little piece of bread is evidence of recent activity, but the idea here is that the speaker is focusing on the result -- presumably, the speaker was expecting to have a nice big piece but only enough for one bit is left.

Hope this helps. The present perfect in English can take some practice to master; you've made a great start, but be patient with yourself and keep yours open for other examples in your reading and listening -- that will also help you understand it even more.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lima9795 on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 00:55

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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
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 04:54

In reply to by lima9795

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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

Submitted by melvinthio on Fri, 16/07/2021 - 11:42

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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

Submitted by melvinthio on Thu, 15/07/2021 - 17:28

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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

Submitted by melvinthio on Mon, 12/07/2021 - 16:31

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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

Submitted by melvinthio on Sat, 10/07/2021 - 05:42

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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

Submitted by melvinthio on Fri, 09/07/2021 - 05:12

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Hi Jonathan, thanks so much for your excellent explanation. You nailed it. If I use the present perfect tense in the "that clause" and add the time adverb "by now" or "now", would it be possible? E.g. :He left 2 hours ago. It is strange that he hasn't already arrived here by now / now --- implying "should have arrived here by now / now". I would highly appreciate your explanation. Best regards,

Hi Melvin,

Yes, right! I think by now is particularly common, as it fits exactly with the meaning of already (i.e., before now).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Tue, 06/07/2021 - 11:06

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Hi Jonathan, thanks for your explanation. To probe into this usage further : [1] Could I use "already" in the following "that clause" negative sentence? E.g. : I'm glad that I hadn't already announced the pay rise at the meeting yesterday because the boss just told me he's going to delay it. (It implicitly conveys the idea that I should have announced it yesterday, but I didn't.) [2] Since the "that clause" is part of the main clause containing an adjective (e.g. I was surprised that..., It's unfortunate that...., It's disappointing that...), do we have to use certain adjectives for this structure, or any adjective will do ? I would highly appreciate your help on this matter. More examples with different adjectives would be of much help. Best regards,

Hi Melvin,

[1] Yes, this sentence is correct and the meaning is clear.

[2] For the meaning 'it should have happened by now' in sentence 2 in your previous message, it seems to me that it's common to use already with other language which also suggests a lack of timely action (i.e., that the speaker is making a criticism). It could be an adjective, as in the examples in my last comment. More examples could be: I was angry/annoyed/shocked/stunned that they hadn't already told me the news. Or, the verb might show criticism, e.g. I regretted/hated/resented (the fact) that they hadn't already told me the news. Or, a particular structure can even suggest criticism (e.g. the rhetorical question in my last comment). I'm afraid I can't really give a complete list here - the point is that all the language underlined above shows that the speaker is dissatisfied, and this - taken together with already - makes the 'it should have happened by now' meaning clearer.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Sun, 04/07/2021 - 12:42

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Hi Jonathan, thanks again for your detailed explanation. In view of the explanation from Cambridge Dictionary combined with your explanation earlier, I can conclude that "already + negative" usage refers to two implications: (1) it gives a stronger expectation that the action has in deed been done. E.g. If you haven't already registered, now's the time to sign up (= I believe you have registered). (2) it implies that something should have happened. E.g. I was surprised that they hadn't already told me the news. (=at the time of speaking, I expected they should have told me the news, but they didn't). Questions: [1] Is my above assumption right? [2] Looking at the example (2) above, I have noticed that "already + negative" can be used in a "that clause" as well. Could I say for instance "he's too choosy that he hasn't already got a job so far", implicitly expressing "he should have got a job by now, but he hasn't so far" ? I would be grateful if you could help me on this matter. Best regards,

Hi Melvin,

Yes, I think your conclusions are fair :)

For the example about being choosy, too should change to so, because to show the result of an adjective, the structure is so + adjective + that clause (not too).

After making this change, I think the ‘choosy’ example makes some sense, but I find it a bit hard to follow the time logic. If you say He’s so choosy that … , the ‘that’ clause should show the result of being choosy. Since He’s so choosy is in the present, it’s expected that the result is in the present or the future (e.g. He’s so choosy that he still can’t find a job – present). It’s a bit unexpected for the result to be before the present (he hasn’t already got a job – 'already' refers to ‘before now’, not including ‘now’).

However, we could say:

  • He’s so choosy that he hasn’t found a job yet.
  • He’s so choosy that he still hasn’t found a job.

In negative sentences, yet and still can include ‘now’ and mean something like ‘even now’.

 

Also, for the meaning of 'it should have happened by now' (i.e. criticism), I find that already is often used together with other language that supports the interpretation of that meaning, for example: I was surprised that they hadn't already told me the news. I think 'already' is less likely to be used alone to express that meaning. It would be more natural to say, for example:

  • It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t already got a job.
  • It’s disappointing that he hasn’t already got a job.
  • He's so choosy. Why hasn't he already got a job? (The rhetorical question implies criticism.)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Tue, 29/06/2021 - 17:28

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Hi Kirk, thanks so much for your explanation. As a non native English speaker, I'd like to know exactly how to use this "already in negatives" structure correctly. Unfortunately, I haven't got more exact guidlines due to the difference of opinion between the explanations I've had from British and American English experts. You have assured me that the notion of "a stronger expectation that the action has in fact been done" (further referred to as "a stronger expectation" only) is also true of American English. To be more focused and exact, here are the sentences I raised to some American English teachers: [1] If you haven't already registered, please hurry up. [2] For the students who haven't already submitted their assignments, tomorrow will be the deadline. Their replies were the same, denying the notion of "a stronger expectation" with one them saying like this: In the sentences, 'already' and 'yet' are interchangeable with no difference in meaning, they mean "before this time" or "until now." The sentence "If you haven't already/yet registered" only means "if you haven't registered before now" and nothing else. Questions: [1] If you see the two sentences above, would you say that they still convey the notion of "a stronger expectation from the speaker" ? [2] What would be your comments on the reply by one of the American English experts ? I would appreciate your detailed explanation to clear up my confusion. Best regards,

Submitted by melvinthio on Mon, 28/06/2021 - 10:27

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Hi Jonathan, thanks for your explanation. You said that in the "already + negative" version, we cannot use the present simple, but have to use the perfect or past simple verb forms. I quote this following sentence from my grammar book : I hope you don't already subscribe. My previous example was : Anyone who doesn't already become a member should sign up now. Questions : [1] Please let me have your view if you have a different reason why the present simple doesn't work in the sentence. [2] I once asked some American English teachers about the "already + negative" structure, they all replied to me that there is no difference at all between using "already" or "yet" in the negative statements, they just have the same meaning. However, British English experts, including you, share the same opinion that "already" gives a stronger expectation that the action has in fact been done. Is it true that in American English there is no such a difference when using "already" and "yet" in a negative sentence? Your explanations would be highly appreciated. Best regards,

Hello Melvin,

I'm sorry if you were expecting a reply from Jonathan, but he is unavailable for a few days and so I thought I'd answer for him.

Regarding 2, as someone who grew up in the US, I can assure you that the explanation Jonathan gave you is also true of American English. To be more precise, what the teachers of American English told you could be true of some sentences in specific contexts, but what Jonathan explained is also true of sentences such as the one he gives as an example.

Regarding 1, I expect that Jonathan was thinking of the tenses that most commonly occur with 'already'. As you point out -- and which the Cambridge Dictionary also uses in some examples -- 'already' can also be used with the present simple in some instances.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Melvin,

Just adding to Kirk's great answer - in my previous comment I said that the present simple in that particular sentence wasn't right (not that the present simple cannot be used with 'already' + negative in general). The sentence was:

  • Anyone who doesn't already become a member should sign up now.

We can't use 'become' in the present simple here because 'become a member' means 'change into a member' or 'start being a member' (i.e. it's a single action). But the present simple shows a regular action, a state in the present, or something that is always true, so 'become a member' doesn't make sense with these meanings. Becoming a member is something people normally do a single time, not regularly.

But, we could say these:

  • I hope you don't (already) subscribe. (subscribe = to be a member; to pay money regularly)
  • I hope you aren't (already) a subscriber. (are/be = a state)

So, the reason is about the meaning of 'become a member' in the present simple. It's not related to the use of 'already'. Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by melvinthio on Wed, 30/06/2021 - 12:00

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thanks so much Jonathan for your clear-cut explanation. Now, I fully get what you meant. I still don't have a firm idea on the exact usage of the "already in negatives" structure due to the difference of opinion between British and American English experts I have reached out as I already posted in the yesterday's message. I do hope you can help me out on this issue with your detailed explanation to the message I posted yesterday. Best regards,