Present Perfect Continuous

Basic form

Subject + HAS/HAVE + BEEN + Verb (continuous form)

Quick examples

  • I have been working as a teacher for 30 years.
  • What have you been doing?

The Present Perfect Continuous (Progressive) has a long and scary name. But don't worry! Read on to learn how to use it.

Use

  1. Actions that started in the past and continue in the present
  2. Actions that have recently stopped
  3. Temporary actions and situations

Use 1: Continuation in the Present

We use the Present Perfect Continuous to show that something started in the past and continues in the present.

  • He has been painting the house for 5 hours. He's still painting it
  • I have been working as a fireman since 1973. I still work as a fireman

Use 2: Past actions recently stopped

Use this tense also to talk about actions that began in the past and have recently stopped.

  • I have been waiting for you for half an hour! I'm not waiting anymore because you have come
  • Look at her eyes! I'm sure she has been crying. She stopped crying when she saw them
For and Since

Since and for are very common time expressions used with the Present Perfect Continuous.

We use for with a period of time, for example:

  • I have been living here for 20 years.

When talking about a starting point, we use since, for example:

  • I have been living here since 1960.
Learn more


To understand this use better, watch this interactive animation:


Sorry, you need to install flash to see this content.
[ Mother: What have you been doing? ]

Explanation

In this cartoon, you can see a mother asking her son: "What have you been doing?". The boy replies: "Nothing, mum".

  • Why is this in Present Perfect Continuous? Click on the button labled "event 1". You can see that the boy is playing a computer game. Now click on the button labeled "event 2". In this scene, someone knocks at the door. It's his mother. In the next scene, she asks him "what have you been doing?". The use of Present Perfect Continuous is correct here because in this last scene Marcus no longer is playing a computer game (he stopped the moment he heard someone knocking at the door). This is exactly use 2 described above.

Use 3: Temporary Actions and Situations

We use this tense when an action or situation is temporary.

  • I have been living in Boston for two months.
  • I have been working as a waitress for the past week.

Form

To form a sentence in the Present Perfect Continuous, you need:

  1. The proper conjugation of the auxiliary verb to have.
  2. The auxiliary verb to be in the Past Participle form: "been".
  3. The Present Participle of your verb (verb + ing)

1. Auxiliary Verb "to have"

We conjugate the auxiliary verb "to have" the same way we would conjugate the normal verb "to have".

PersonSingularPlural
FirstI haveWe have
SecondYou haveYou have
ThirdHe/she/it hasThey have

As you can see, the third person singular is irregular.

More examples:
  • She has never seen my brother.
  • Neither of my brothers has ever driven a truck.

2. Auxiliary verb "to be"

The past participle of the verb "to be" is "been". This is also an auxiliary verb, and you must never forget about it

  • I have working as a teacher for 10 years.
  • I have been working as a teacher for 10 years.

3. The Present Participle

The present participle is of a verb is a verb form that appears with the present tenses. The present participle is formed by adding -ing to the verb.

  • talk + ing = talking
  • be + ing = being
There are exceptions.

Positive Sentences

Subject+HAVE/HAS+BEEN+Verb (continuous form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
I have been sleeping. 2
Tom has been working as a postman for 30 years now.1
She has been learning English for 3 hours now.1

Questions

HAVE/HAS+Subject+BEEN+Verb (continuous form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
Have you been running? 2
Has Tom been walking the dog?1
How long have you been learning English?1
What have you been doing there? 1

Negative Sentences

Subject+HAVE/HAS+BEEN+Verb (continuous form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
No, I haven't been crying. I'm just cold. 1
His car is broken, so he hasn't been driving it lately.2

Check your understanding!