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 (72 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Submitted by Alyaa.Adel98 on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 20:35

In this sentence ( my hands are very dirty. I've been repairing the car ).. can i also use present perfect simple?.... i'm still confused about useing present perfect simple or continuous Is it used as I want to focuse in result or the activity?!

Hello Alyaa.Adel98,

The simple form is possible here grammatically but it is not really consistent with the focus of the sentence.

You would use the simple form if the repair is complete and you are interested in showing the result of your work. However, clearly in the sentence as it is written you are more concerned with your hands being dirty, so the continuous form is better.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 19:09

Hello. What does the following sentence mean? Should we use another form of the verb? - She has learned to cook since the age of seven. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

I'm afraid that sentence is not correct. What I would recommend is 'She started to cook at age seven' or 'She's been cooking since she was seven'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by YSATO201602 on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 06:17

Hello teachers, I would like to check the difference of nuances between present(or past) perfect simple and continuous. In the example sentences below, it would be more natural to use continuous form: i.e. the sentence 1b) and 2b) would sounds more feasible. 1a) I have waited for you since morning. 1b) I have been waiting for you since morning 2a) I had waited for thirty minutes when the train came. 2b) I had been waiting for thirty minutes when the rain came. How would native speakers feel when they fear 1a) and 2a)? Do these sentences hold almost the same meaning and are they interchangeable? Or do they sound a bit strange? Thank you in advance.

Hello YSATO201602,

All of your examples are grammatically correct but, as you say, the second one in each pair is the more natural of the two as the context makes it clear that it is the duration of the waiting that is important and should be emphasised. However, the simple forms are possible and do not sound wrong. Beyond that, it's really a question of the broader context and the author's style and intention.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vishinde on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 10:52

I am confused about this example of present perfect tense that every grammar book gives - "I have lived in London for 10 years". The explanation offered is that I came to London 10 years ago and I am still living here.... In my view, it should be present perfect continuous if I am still living here. Isn't it?

Hello Vishinde,

Both present perfect simple and continuous are possible, and neither tells us that the person will continue to live in London - they may, or they may move elsewhere.


The difference between the two forms is not one of fact but of emphasis and focus.


When we use the present perfect simple we are thinking about a result or an achievement; we take the 10 years as a whole and say 'look at what I've done!'

When we use the present perfect continuous we are thinking about the process or the activity. We are considering how much work we did or what we needed to do in order to reach the current point.


In some contexts, such as yours, the difference is minimal and the two forms are interchangeable. In other contexts there is a bigger difference. For example:

I've painted the room (and isn't it beautiful!)

I've been painting the room (and now I'm exhausted)



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 03:52

It's really helpful.