Using the Present Perfect Continuous

We use the present perfect continuous (also known as the present perfect progressive) to talk about duration of time; specifically, how much time has elapsed since an event started in the past and continued to the present.

  • They have been meeting for an hour.
  • Have they been meeting for long?
  • They have not been meeting since last month.

We can also use the present perfect continuous tense without a ‘for’ or ‘since’ time word if we want to talk about very recent past events. We would use words like ‘lately’ or ‘recently’ to indicate this:

  • She has not been feeling well lately.
  • Have you been to London recently?
  • I have been working too much
  • They have recently been honored for their humanitarian work.

We can also eliminate time words to show that we have observed something, using one of our senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch). When used as part of a question, it can sound accusatory.

  • Daniel has not been practicing his oboe. (We have not heard Daniel practice his oboe.)
  • What have you been up to? (We are either curious or suspicious about someone’s activities.)
  • Have you been drinking? (We can smell alcohol on a person.)

Non-continuous verbs, such as ‘yesterday,’ and ‘last month’ do not work with the present perfect continuous. We would not say ‘I have been owning the car for three years,’ but instead would use the present perfect tense: ‘I have owned the car for three years’.

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