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)
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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.



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.
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.



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].



The LearnEnglish Team

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


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.



The LearnEnglish Team


Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

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


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,
The LearnEnglish Team