When do we use the Present Perfect Continuous?
An unfinished action
When you are describing an activity, which has been happening up until this point, i.e. something which started in the past and is continuing at the moment.
Examples of an unfinished action
- Sarah has been teaching English for 12 years.
- They have been talking non-stop for three hours!
- Why haven’t you been reading your new book?
It is often used with how long, for, and since.
Examples with how long, for, and since:
- How long have you been studying English?
- We have been living here since last year.
- I have been waiting for the bus for half an hour.
We can’t use the present perfect continuous with stative verbs
Stative verbs are verbs like believe, agree, depend, contain (for a longer list of stative verbs and grammar explanations, click here). Stative Verbs are sometimes also called Non-Continuous Verbs as they refer to things you can’t actually see the somebody doing in the physical sense, e.g. love, hate, cost, care and so on.
9 Examples of how NOT to use the present perfect continuous
Examples of how NOT to use the present perfect continuous with a stative verb:
- INCORRECT: I have not been agreeing with him.
- CORRECT: e.g. I do not agree with him. (Present Simple)
- CORRECT: e.g. I didn’t agree with him (Past Simple)
- INCORRECT: Why hasn’t he been believing what you say?
- CORRECT: e.g. Why doesn’t he believe what you say? (Present Simple)
- CORRECT: e.g. Why didn’t he believe what you say? (Past Simple)
- INCORRECT: We have been needing help recently.
- CORRECT: e.g. We need (Present Simple)
- CORRECT: e.g. We needed (Past Simple)
Temporary situations or habits
Much like the present continuous tense (present progressive), where something started in the past and finished recently. Note: we often use the words recently or lately in these kinds of sentences (see examples below).
Examples of a habit or temporary situation:
- We have been watching too much tv lately.
- Have you been swimming recently?
- What have you been doing this morning?
When something was happening until a short time ago and ends in a defined result.
Examples of a finished action:
- Peter is sleepy as he has been working all day.
- Our garden is dry because it has been so hot.
- I have been reading a great book this week.