Present Perfect or Present Perfect Continuous?

How do you choose between the Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous?

The Present Perfect is used to denote a link between the present and the past. The time of the action is before now but not specified, and we are often more interested in the result than in the action itself.

The Present Perfect Continuous is used to show that an activity in the past was in progress. It is possible that the activity is still taking place.

Both of these tenses show an action that recently stopped or is still going on. The main difference is on the emphasis: Present Perfect puts emphasis on the result, while Present Perfect Continuous puts emphasis on the duration or course of the action.

Present Perfect or Present Perfect Continuous?
via https://www.slideshare.net/MMoussaK/present-perfect-vs-present-perfect-continuous-49729060

Present Perfect or Present Perfect Continuous?

So, how do you choose between the Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous?

Present Perfect

The Present Perfect expresses an activity started in the past and has been finished before now. We are interested in the result or achievement of the activity. It is used to show that an activity in the past is finished.

The structure is:

have / has + Past Participle

  • We’ve selected our favorite painting among those exhibited.
  • Mary has written ten letters today.

Present Perfect can be used with state and action verbs and emphasizes permanent/routine actions:

  • I’ve known her for 8 years.
  • I have lived in London since I was born.

Present Perfect Continuous

The Present Perfect Continuous expresses an activity that started in the past, is still in progress now, and might continue in the future. It is used to show that an activity in the past was in progress. We are interested in the activity.

The structure is:

have / has + been + -ing verb

  • We’ve been looking at those beautiful paintings for two hours.
  • She has been smoking too much recently.

Present Perfect Continuous (like all continuous tenses) are not used with state verbs and emphasizes temporary actions:

  • We have been waiting for you for an hour.
  • I usually work in London but I’ve been working in Brussels for the last 3 weeks.

Comparing

Consider the following examples:

Present PerfectPresent Perfect Continuous
have / has + Past Participlehave / has + been + -ing verb
I’ve cooked dinner. It is ready now.I’ve been cooking dinner. It will be ready soon.
Jane has just run a race. Now she’s receiving a medal.Jane’s been running today. Now she’s really tired.
We’ve eaten all cake. The plates are empty.We’ve been eating too much cake. We must eat less.

Adverbs frequently used

The following adverbs are most commonly used with Present Perfect: for, since, already, ever, never, yet, still, etc.

  • I’ve worked here for thirty years.
  • I have already seen this film.

The following adverbs are most commonly used with Present Perfect Continuous: all day, for 5 years, since 1980, how long?.. the whole week, etc.

  • I’ve been working on my thesis all month.
  • I’m so tired. I’ve been doing my homework the whole day.

Check out this video from 7ESL showing the difference between Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous:

See more details here:

Present Perfect Tense with ‘Just’ and ‘Yet’

Present Perfect Tense for Unfinished Past

Present Perfect Tense for Experience

Present Perfect Continuous: Statements

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