Tenses

Present Perfect Continuous

The Present Perfect Continuous (Progressive) is used to talk about actions or situations that were in progress before some other actions or situations.
There are also other uses.

Subject + HAS/HAVE + BEEN + Verb (continuous form)
  • I have been working as a teacher for 30 years.
  • It has been raining.
  • We have been living in France for a few weeks.
  • Have you been drinking?

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 1993. (I still work as a fireman.)
  • She has been studying since 11 o’clock. (She’s still learning.)
  • Eric has been surfing the Internet for two hours. (He’s still surfing.)

For and Since

For and Since 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

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.)
  • He has been repairing his bike. (His clothes and hands are dirty.)
  • It has been snowing. (The street is white.)

To understand this use better, watch this interactive animation:

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 labeled "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 the 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.
  • She has been working as a waitress for the past week.
  • He has been substituting for Mike since Wednesday.
Sometimes you should be careful using questions with the Present Perfect Continuous:
  • Have you been drinking? 

Asking such kind of question we suggest that we smell alcohol. Using this question not properly we could insult someone we ask.

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.

Remember that the third person is irregular:

Person

Singular

Plural

First

I have

We have

Second

You have

You have

Third

He/she/it has

They have

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 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

Declarative Sentences

Subject

+

HAVE/HAS

+

BEEN

+

Verb (continuous form)

e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.

e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.

 

Examples

Use (click to read)

Tom has been working as a postman for 30 years now.

1

have been sleeping.

2

Anna has been living in Warsaw for five months.

3

Questions

HAVE/HAS

+

Subject

+

BEEN

+

Verb (continuous form)

e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.

e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.

 

Examples

Use (click to read)

Has Tom been walking the dog?

1

Have you been running?

2

Have they been living in Paris for three weeks?

3

 Negative Sentences

Subject

+

HAVEN’T/HASN’T

+

BEEN

+

Verb (continuous form)

e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.

e.g. walking, going, taking, etc.

  Examples Use (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!