Present perfect continuous

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The present perfect continuous (also known as the present perfect progressive) is used to show that an action began in the past and has continued to the present. It is usually used to say how long that action has been in progress for, but it can also be used to say that an action has been taking place recently, or that the action has caused a noticeable result in the present. You can download this guide, as well as a number of present perfect continuous grammar activities, in PDF format using the links at the bottom of this page.

How to form the present perfect continuous

Actions that began in the past and continued to the present

We use the present perfect continuous to say an action or activity began in the past and continued to the present.

We can state the duration of this action using the preposition for followed by a period of time:

  • My baby has been sleeping for three hours.
  • I’ve been living in this city for five years.
  • They have been playing that game for weeks.

We can also say how long an action has been in progress for using since followed by a specific time in the past (including simple past clauses):

  • I’ve been thinking about this since last week.
  • Jamie has been working here since 2012.
  • Helen and Sarah have been chatting since they arrived at the office.

We can also use all followed by a time word to show that the action has been in progress for the entirety of that time up until the present:

  • He’s been eating cookies all week.
  • Rachel hasn’t been feeling well all day.
  • They’ve been building that bridge all year.

Note: If the focus of the sentence is on quantity rather than duration, use the present perfect:

  • She’s been sending five emails this morning. She’s sent five emails this morning.
  • We’ve been visiting Rome twice in the last year. We’ve visited Rome twice in the last year.
  • They have been winning the cup seven times in the last 10 years. They have won the cup seven times in the last 10 years.

Note: If the action finished in the past and therefore does not connect to the present, use the present perfect:

  • I’ve been reading Lord of the Rings. (but I still have a few chapters to go)
  • I’ve read Lord of the Rings. (I’ve finished reading the book)
  • He’s been fixing his car. (this action began in the past but is not yet complete)
  • He’s fixed his car. (this action finished in the past)

Note: There is no real difference between the present perfect and present perfect continuous for duration (using for, since and all) with the verbs live, study, teach, and work:

  • I have lived here for three years. / I have been living here for three years.
  • I have studied English for over a decade. / I have been studying English for over a decade.
  • I have taught maths all my life. / I have been teaching maths all my life.
  • They have worked here since 1990. / They have been working here since 1990.

New or recent activities

We can use the present perfect continuous to say that an activity was in progress in the recent past (although not necessarily in progress at the exact time of speaking). We often use this with adverbs such as recently or lately:

  • I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz recently.
  • She’s been visiting her mother a lot lately.
  • John’s been eating more salads these days.

A noticeable result in the present

We can use the present perfect continuous to show that a past action has caused a noticeable result in the present. This is usually something you can detect with your senses (see, smell, feel, etc). Be careful when asking a question in the present perfect continuous – you might offend someone!

  • I’m sorry for the mess; we’ve been cleaning the house. (the mess is noticeable)
  • Have you been smoking? (the smell of smoke is noticeable)
  • Your hands are filthy! What have you been doing? – I’ve been gardening.

Avoid the continuous with stative verbs

We don’t generally use stative verbs with continuous tenses. Stative verbs represent states rather than actions, and include verbs such as be, have (for possession), know, want, need, believe, like, love, hate and prefer. If the state began in the past and continued to the present, use the present perfect:

  • I have been knowing him for five years. I have known him for five years.
  • We have been having this car for seven months. We have had this car for seven months.
  • They have been belonging to this church for years. They have belonged to this church for years.

Download worksheets

Click on the links below to download a PDF version of this guide as well as a number of present perfect continuous activities:

Present perfect continuous – grammar explanation

Present perfect continuous activities:

Present perfect continuous activity – speaking activity 1
Present perfect continuous activity – speaking activity 2
Present perfect continuous activity – sentence structures
Present perfect continuous activity – present perfect vs present perfect continuous 1
Present perfect continuous activity – present perfect vs present perfect continuous 2
Present perfect continuous activity – present perfect vs present perfect continuous 3