Present Perfect Continuous

Present Perfect Continuous
We have been waiting here for twenty minutes

1. Introduction to Present Perfect Continuous

We use the Present Perfect Continuous for an action (waiting). The action happens over a period of time (for twenty minutes). Here the period lasts up to the present – They are still waiting now.

2. Structure of Present Perfect Continuous

  • Positive: Subject + have/has been + Verb-ing
  • Negative: Subject + have/has not been + Verb-ing
  • Question: Have/Has + Subject + Verb-ing

POSITIVE

I/you/we/they have been waiting here.

He/she/it has been waiting here.

NEGATIVE

I/you/we/they haven’t been waiting here.

He/she/it hasn’t been waiting here.

QUESTION

Have I/you/we/they been waiting here?

Has he/she/it been waiting here:

Examples:

  • We‘ve been waiting for ages.
  • It has been raining all day.
  • Our team hasn’t been doing very well lately.
  • Have you been looking for the book long?

3. Use

We use the Present Continuous Tense for an action over a period of time leading up to the present (see the example in the picture). In these examples the action is still going on.

  • We‘ve been waiting here for twenty minutes. (We are waiting now)
  • Listen. That burglar alarm has been ringing since eight o’clock this morning.

We must use the Perfect in these situations.

  • We wait here for twenty minutes. (Wrong)
  • We have waited here for twenty minutes. (Right)
  • We are waiting here for twenty minutes. (Wrong)
  • We have been waiting here for twenty minutes. (Right)

We can use the Present Perfect Continuous to talk about repeated actions up to now.

  • Natasha has been playing the piano since she was four.

We can also use it to talk about an action which ends just before the present.

  • I‘ve been swimming. That’s why my hair is wet.

The Present Perfect Continuous can sometimes be interchanged with the present perfect tense with little or no deviation in meaning.

  • Esther has worked there for nine years.         
  • Esther has been working there for nine years.

However, in cases where the present perfect tense carries the meaning “before now” (non-specific time in the past), the present perfect progressive cannot be used.

  • I have been seeing that movie five times already. (Incorrect!)
  • I have seen that movie five times already. (Correct)

4. For, since, how long and recently

We can use the Present Perfect Continuous with for and since

  • My sister has been staying with me for three weeks now.
  • You’ve been playing on that computer since seven o’clock.

We use how long in questions.

  • How long have you been sitting there?

Note also recently and lately. These both mean “in the last few days or weeks“.

  • I haven’t been feeling very well recently.
  • What have you been doing lately?

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