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: 4.3 (45 votes)
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Submitted by Stellaaa on Sun, 29/11/2020 - 01:35

Hello I had been waiting for these things over 2 months I had waited for these things over 2 months What is the difference between these two sentences ?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 30/11/2020 - 07:26

In reply to by Stellaaa


Hello Stellaaa,

The difference is primarily one of emphasis. The simple form (had waited) focuses on the action as a single unit, while the continuous form (had been waiting) emphasises the process or activity.


In practical terms, this generally means that the simple form describes a completed action: I had waited for over two months, but the waiting was over. The continuous form suggests that the waiting was not finished: I had been waiting for over two months, and may be waiting a little longer.


Note that these are questions of perspective rather than fact: we are talking about how the speaker sees the situation, not how the situation really is. Thus, when the speaker uses the continuous form (in the past - had been waiting - or the present - have been waiting) they are signalling that they were/are still in the mental state of waiting. That is to say that they are still irritated or frustrated, for example. When the speaker uses the simple form they are signalling that they consider the waiting to be complete and, probably, behind them; they can look back on the waiting as something prior.


Incidentally, this page is about the present perfect simple and continuous rather than the past perfect. The forms work in the same way with a simple time shift (now > then), but you may find it useful to look at this page and some of the questions and answers in the comments:



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigitcan on Mon, 16/11/2020 - 19:12

Hello team, My question It ___(not raın) for the past two months I think answer is It hasn't been raining... But right answer is It hasn't raıned.Why we don't use present perfect continuous? action is continuing

Hello Yigitcan,

Both the simple and continuous forms are possible here. It really depends on the speaker. If you want to focus on the ongoing situation (no rain) then the continuous is more likely. If you want to focus on the result (a drought) then the simple is more likely.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maya.micheal on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 00:03

Hello team, Could you please tell me wetherwe use the present perfect continuous in these examples or present perfect simple? 1-the children are tired now.they (have been playing/have played) in the garden 2-you look tired.Have you(worked/been working) hard? 3-Are you ok? You look as if you have(cried/been crying) Do we here focus on the result or or the activity? I think the present perfect continuous is more appropirate
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 02:27

In reply to by Maya.micheal


Hi Maya.micheal,

You're right! Although all three examples start with the result of the action, the second sentence in each example focuses on the activity. The speaker is interested in what activity has caused the result that he/she can see. So, the present perfect continuous is the best choice here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Sun, 18/10/2020 - 08:10

Hello team, I would like to ask some questions. e.g, Has someone been eating my special bread? There's only a little bit left. Why "been eating" is used? From the sentences, the special bread only a little bit left, which is the result. e.g, Have you always hated garlic? Why didn't use "been hating" to indicate the person always hates garlic? Thanks a lot.

Submitted by MPhayTp on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 20:44

Dear Team, My teacher taught me a few sentences about present perfect and present.p.continuous but I'm still confused about those sentences. "Jonas is a writer. He writes mystery novels. He has written/has been writing (my teacher told me both present perfect and p.p.contin can be used.) since he was 18 years old. He has written 6 novels." Could you tell me why both tenses can be used? As far as I know, this is doing till now So we must definitely use Present Perfect Contin rather than Present Perfect. Thank you!!!
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 16:09

In reply to by MPhayTp


Hello DaniWeebKage,

I'd encourage you to ask your teacher about that. There is probably some context (that I can't think of right now) in which present perfect simple would make sense there, but in general I think the continuous form is best.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Krik, Yes, I asked her about that. She told me that Present Perfect Can be used in "Changes over time'' Jonas does not write anything until he is 18 years old. He do write after 18. Does It make sense?