Present Perfect Continuous Tense | Grammar


structure: present perfect continuous

The Present Perfect Continuous uses two auxiliary verbs together with a main verb.

In this lesson we look at the structure and use of the Present Perfect Continuous tense, as well as the use of for and since, followed by a quiz to check your understanding.

Note that continuous tenses are also called progressive tenses. So the Present Perfect Continuous tense is sometimes called the Present Perfect Progressive tense.

How do we make the Present Perfect Continuous tense?

The structure of the Present Perfect Continuous tense is:

subject + auxiliary have + auxiliary be + main verb
conjugated in Present Simple past participle  
have, has been present participle

The first auxiliary (have) is conjugated in the Present Simple: have, has

The second auxiliary (be) is invariable in past participle form: been

The main verb is invariable in present participle form: -ing

For negative sentences we insert not after the first auxiliary verb.

For question sentences, we exchange the subject and first auxiliary verb.

Look at these example sentences with the Present Perfect Continuous tense:

  subject auxiliary verb   auxiliary verb main verb  
+ I have   been waiting for one hour.
+ You have   been talking too much.
It has not been raining.  
We have not been playing football.
? Have you   been seeing her?
? Have they   been doing their homework?

Contraction with Present Perfect Continuous

When we use the Present Perfect Continuous tense in speaking, we often contract the subject and the first auxiliary verb. We also sometimes do this in informal writing.

I have been I’ve been
You have been You’ve been
He has been
She has been
It has been
John has been
The car has been
He’s been
She’s been
It’s been
John’s been
The car’s been
We have been We’ve been
They have been They’ve been
  • I’ve been reading.
  • Jenny’s been helping us recently.

In negative sentences, we may contract the first auxiliary verb and “not”:

  • I haven’t been playing tennis.
  • It hasn’t been snowing.

How do we use the Present Perfect Continuous tense?

This tense is called the Present Perfect Continuous tense. There is usually a connection with the present or now.

We use the Present Perfect Continuous to talk about:

  • past action recently-stopped
  • past action still-continuing

Present Perfect Continuous for past action just stopped

We use the Present Perfect Continuous tense to talk about action that started in the past and stopped recently. There is usually a result now.

I’m tired because I‘ve been running.
past present future
Recent action Result now  
  • I’m tired [now] because I‘ve been running.
  • Why is the grass wet [now]? Has it been raining?
  • You don’t understand [now] because you haven’t been listening.

Present Perfect Continuous for past action continuing now

We use the Present Perfect Continuous tense to talk about action that started in the past and is continuing now. This is often used with for or since.

I have been reading for 2 hours.
past present future
Action started in past. Action is continuing now.  
  • I have been reading for 2 hours. (I am still reading now.)
  • We‘ve been studying since 9 o’clock. (We’re still studying now.)
  • How long have you been learning English? (You are still learning now.)
  • We have not been smoking. (And we are not smoking now.)

For and Since with Present Perfect Continuous tense

We often use for and since with perfect tenses:

  • We use for to talk about a period of time: three hours, two months, one decade
  • We use since to talk about a point in past time: 9 o’clock, 1st January, Monday
for since
a period of time a point in past time
– – – – – – – – – – – – – • – – – – – – – – – –
30 minutes 10.00am
four days Friday
3 months March
2 years 2010
3 centuries 1700
ages I left school
ever the beginning of time
etc etc

Look at these example sentences using for and since with the Present Perfect Continuous tense:

  • I have been studying for three hours.
  • I have been watching TV since 7pm.
  • Tara hasn’t been feeling well for two weeks.
  • Tara hasn’t been visiting us since March.
  • He has been playing football for a long time.
  • He has been living in Bangkok since he left school.

For can be used with all tenses. Since is usually used with perfect tenses only.

Back to 12 English Tenses



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