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 (120 votes)
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Submitted by Khaled hasan on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 09:52

Hello Sir I have a problem in determining what tense should I use in these cases: 1- he has____(stay) with friends for too long. He needs to find a house of his own. 2-I think someone has____(use) my my phone. The battery is nearly dead.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 05:19

In reply to by Khaled hasan


Hi Khaled hasan,

Yes, your sentences are tricky! 

In sentence 1, I'd say he's been staying (present perfect continuous). The continuous tense emphasises the duration of the activity (for too long). 

In sentence 2, I'd say has been using (present perfect continuous). Again, this emphasises that the activity went on a long time, and somebody didn't just use the phone for a moment. That fits the situation, since the battery is nearly dead. 

But, I would also say that in real life usage, different answers are acceptable. For example, in sentence 1 we could say he's stayed (present perfect simple) if we want to give a sense that the situation (staying with friends) has reached a point where it must end and cannot continue. We might emphasise different things in different contexts of speaking.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Malika_Meg on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 13:53

Hello, Could you please clarify one thing? Test 1, q. 3, why the correct answer is 'been eating'? The fact that there is only a little bit left looks like some kind of result, isn't it? Thank you, Malika
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 15:04

In reply to by Malika_Meg


Hi Malika_Meg,

Good question! I'll try to explain.


If we say Has someone eaten my bread?, it suggests that the person has eaten all the bread (present perfect simple describing a completed action).


Instead, Has someone been eating my bread? is the better option. We can see the little bit of bread left as evidence of the recent activity.


Does that make sense?


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Jonathan_R, Of course, it does! Thank you very much for your clear and concise explanation) All the best, Malika_Meg
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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 00:14

Hello. Could you please help me? What's wrong with this sentence? - The Suez Canal has been reopened for international navigation since 1976. Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

I'll try to explain. The verb reopen is an action that takes place at a single point in time. For example, we can say The Canal reopened in 1976 or The shop reopened last week. ('1976' and 'last week' are points in time.)


But we can't say reopened since 1976, because since indicates a period of time. Since means 'from then until now' (e.g. since 1976 means 'from 1976 until now'). So, it doesn't fit with reopened, which is an action at a single point in time.


Here's another way to think about it. The verb reopen means to 'become open' or 'start to be open'. If we substitute reopened for started to be open, we get: started to be open since 1976. But this doesn't make sense, because since 1976 is a period of time, but started is only a single moment. It doesn't have a duration.


So, we need to make one of these corrections.

  • The Suez Canal has been open since 1976. (be open can show a period of time)
  • The Suez Canal opened in 1976. (in is a preposition showing a point in time, not a period of time. The tense needs to change to the past simple.)


Does that make sense?

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Karan Narang on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 04:20

Could you explain me these sentence ? I am still waiting for him, I have been still waiting for some reason. I have been working with some people. I have doubt these because of perhaps we can use for exact time all of them.

Hello Karan Narang,

I'm afraid we can't do this. There are simply too many possible meanings here depending on the situations in which these were uttered. If you'd like to explain what you understand each sentence means and ask us to confirm your understanding, we can try to do that, but what you are asking here would take more time than we have for responding to comments.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Chubbaka on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 06:02

Is that sentense correct? "Paul has come to school late every morning this week." Isn't it a repeated action? Why we didn't use Present Perfect Continious, here?