In this lesson, we learn what the Present Perfect Continuous tense, and how to use it in English. There is a video lesson attached at the end of the lesson; you can scroll down to it directly and watch it if you prefer videos to articles.
The present perfect continuous tense is a unique tense. It is often confused and replaced with the simple past tense, which is not grammatically correct.
Now, why the Present Perfect Continuous tense is unique and gets confused by most English learners is what we need to learn. Let’s master it!
When to use the present perfect continuous tense in English?
Present perfect continuous tense definition: the Present Perfect Continuous tense is used to talk about actions that started in the past and are still continuing in the present. The whole purpose of using the Present Perfect Continuous tense is to focus on either of the following two things:
- The time duration for which the action has been continuing.
- The starting point of the action since when the action has been going on.
We use FOR to talk about the time duration, and SINCE is used to talk about the starting point of the ongoing action.
Let’s note it down that we, here in the Present Perfect Continuous tense, don’t just focus on the continuity of the action, we focus either on the time duration or the starting point of the ongoing action.
If we just wanted to focus on the continuity of an action in the present, we would simply use the Present Continuous tense, not the Present Perfect continuous tense.
- He is talking on a call. (Present continuous tense)
(The focus is on the continuity of the action in the present.)
- He has been talking on a call for 5 hours. (Present perfect continuous tense)
(The focus is on the time duration for which the action of talking has been going on.)
- He has been talking on a call since 2 p.m. (Present perfect continuous tense)
(The focus is on the starting time since when the action of talking has been going on.)
The Present Perfect continuous tense examples
- We have been waiting for Jenny for an hour.
- I have been working on a secret project since 2016.
- She has been crying in her room since morning.
- He has not been going to school for a week.
- Jon has been playing cricket for a long time.
- She has not been taking medicine since last week.
- My mother has been teaching at that school since we moved to Delhi.
- The CBI has been working relentlessly on this case lately.
- Jimmy has been sleeping for hours.
- My cousins have been living alone since they had a fight with their parents.
- They have been seeing each other for a month.
The Present Perfect Continuous tense structure
Use of HAS BEEN & HAVE BEEN
|Has been||he, she, it & singular noun names|
|Have been||I, you, we, they & plural noun names|
- I have been talking to her for a month.
- She has been dating me since the last month.
- He has been drinking a lot lately.
- We have been doing this for a long time.
- I have not been talking to her for a month.
- She has not been living with me since the last month.
- My father has not been working since the pandemic hit the ground.
To ask about the time duration of an ongoing action
|For how long||has/have||subject||been||V1+ing||object/modifier?|
To ask about the starting point of an ongoing action
- For how long have you been living here?
- How long have you been living here for?
- Since when has she been teaching English?
Note: To form an interrogative negative sentence, just add ‘NOT’ after the auxiliary verb ‘has/have.’
Use of FOR & SINCE in Perfect Continuous tenses
Both for and since are used differently in perfect continuous tenses.
- SINCE = to talk about the starting point of an ongoing action
- FOR = to talk about the time of an ongoing action
Time expressions used with ‘FOR‘
|Centuries||for the last 2 centuries, for many centuries (unspecific)|
|decades||for a decade, for the last decade, for many decades (unspecific)|
|Years||for a year, for 5 years, for many years (unspecific)|
|Months||for a month, for 5 months, for many months (unspecific)|
|Weeks||for a week, for 2 weeks, for many weeks (unspecific)|
|Days||for 20 days, for the last 2 days, for many days(unspecific)|
|Hours||for an hour, for 5 hours, for many hours (unspecific)|
|Minutes||for 10 minutes, for the last 60 minutes, for some minutes (unspecific)|
Time expressions used with ‘SINCE‘
|Years||since 2000, since 1996|
|Months||since January, since October|
|Days||since Monday, since Sunday|
|A specific time in the clock||since 5: 24 p.m, since 2’o clock in the morning|
|A specific time in a day||since the morning, since the afternoon|
|Dates||since October 18, 1996, since 3 April 2012|
|Specific action in the past||since I met you, since they broke up|
Recent actions (stopped or still ongoing) that are responsible for a present state
At times, actions in the Present Perfect Continuous tense work as the reason or the evidence for a present state or situation.
- You look leaner right now. Have you been exercising lately?
- She looks tired as she has been working all day.
- My eyes are red because I have been crying for hours.
Jon: The grass on the ground looks wet. It must have been raining for hours.
Max: Actually, yes. It has been raining all day.
Can I use the Present Perfect Continuous tense without using FOR and SINCE?
Some teachers will tell you that you can’t form a sentence without using ‘FOR’ and ‘SINCE.’ But let me clear the air for you guys.
We can form sentences in the Present Perfect Continuous tense using the words ‘recently’ and ‘lately.’
- He has been working very hard lately.
- You have been drinking a lot recently.
- She has been smoking actively lately.
With some verbs, it’s not appropriate to use the Present Perfect continuous tense.
- I have owned this car for more than 10 years.
- I have been owning this car for more than 10 years. ❌
- I have had this car for more than 10 years.
- I have been having this car for more than 10 years. ❌
- She has loved you for years.
- She has been loving you for years. ❌
NOTE: Don’t use stative verbs in continuous tenses. Here’s a list of some common stative verbs that are not used in continuous tenses:
Like, love, hate, abhor, dislike, seem, appear, prefer, agree, disagree, mean, believe, remember, realize, recognize, understand, depend, have, own, surprise, etc.
Conclusion: Use the Present Perfect Continuous tense when you either want to focus on the time duration or the starting point since when an action has been continuing. If you simply want to talk about the continuity of an action right now, in the present, use the Present Continuous tense.
See you in some other class, guys! The class is over! 😉