Difference Between Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous?

I don’t understand when to use Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous. Can you explain it?

Promoter Asked on 20/04/2014 in English Grammar.

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The Present Perfect tense might be one of the main reasons why English language learners all over the world hate grammar. It expresses a time aspect that is either non-existent in their language or is expressed with totally different tools.

To help you overcome this difficulty, I would like to draw your attention to the KEYWORDS and phrases that are often used together with Present Perfect. If you memorize these expressions, you won’t have to think about WHY you are using Present Perfect, you can just use it automatically. These keywords usually have the same position in the sentence, so you will also learn the correct word order!

 

PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE

FORM: HAVE/ HAS + PAST PARTICIPLE (3rd form of the verb)

 

POSITIVE

  • I have read this book. I’ve read this book.
  • He has read this book. He’s read this book.

NEGATIVE

  • I have not read it. I haven’t read it.
  • He has not read it. He hasn’t read it.

QUESTIONS

  • Have you read it?
  • Has he read it?

 

USE

1. ever, never (anytime in your life)

  • Have you ever been to Turkey?
  • Has your mother ever read your diary?
  • I’ve never eaten sushi.
  • Laura has never seen the sea.

Use ’ever’ in questions and ’never’ in negative sentences.
For positive sentences you can add the word ’already’:

  • I’ve (already) been to Turkey twice.
  • Laura’s (already) seen the sea.

 

2. already, yet, so far (until now)

  • Have you done your homework yet?
  • Has your sister arrived yet?
  • I haven’t cleaned the windows yet.
  • They haven’t called yet.
  • Sue hasn’t bought the tickets yet.
  • I’ve already bought them.
  • He’s already called.
  • They’ve already arrived.
  • I’ve sent out ten invitations so far.
  • I’ve had no problems with my new car so far.
  • How many museums have you visited so far?

Use ’yet’ for questions and negative sentences and ’already’ for positive sentences. ’So far’ may be used in every case.

 

3. just (completed a very short time ago)

  • I’ve just met the new boss.
  • She’s just called.
  • We’ve just finished lunch.
  • They’ve just bought a new car.
  • The train’s just left.

 

4. recently, lately (completed not long ago)

  • Have you seen any good films recently?
  • I haven’t met him lately.
  • Has she been here recently?
  • They haven’t practised a lot lately.

 

5. still (used when something is not done until now, but we expected it to be done)

  • I wonder where Jack and Tim are. They still haven’t called.
  • My mum’s getting better, but she still hasn’t recovered fully.
  • The guests can be here any minute and you still haven’t got dressed!

 

6. how long/ since/ for, for ages (action started in the past and still in progress in the present)

  • How long have you known Janet?
  • I’ve known her for ages.
  • She’s had that car for two years.
  • Peter and Robert have been best friends since they were kids.
  • My parents have been married since 1980.

 

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PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS

FORM: HAVE/HAS BEEN + …ING

 

POSITIVE

  • I have been living here for a long time. I’ve been living here for a long time.
  • She has been living here for a long time. She’s been living here for a long time.

NEGATIVE

  • I have not been living here for a long time. I haven’t been living here for a long time.
  • She has not been living here for a long time. She hasn’t been living here for a long time.

QUESTIONS

  • Have you been living here for a long time?
  • Has she been living here for a long time?

 

USE

1. how long/ since/ for, for ages (action started in the past and still in progress in the present)

  • How long have you been working here?
  • I’ve been working here since 2002.
  • Tom’s been doing karate since he was five.
  • They’ve been looking for a flat for months.
  • I’ve been taking singing lessons for a year.
  • John and Suzie have been going out for ages.

 

What’s the difference between Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous?

  • I’ve worked here for two years.
  • I’ve been working here for two years.

When you use the continuous form (WORKING), the focus is on the present. It shows that ’working’ is in progress at the moment. It may not be a permanent situation.

When you use the simple form (WORKED), it shows that the situation is permanent. The focus is on the time that has passed. I have COMPLETED two years of work.

Look at the following examples:

  • I’ve written a hundred pages. (100 pages are completed)
  • I’ve been writing this book for months. (I am still writing, the book is not completed)
  • We’ve discussed it. (we are not talking about it anymore, the discussion is completed)
  • We’ve been discussing it for hours. (we are still talking about it)
  • I’ve painted the the kitchen yellow. (the work is completed)
  • I’ve been painting the kitchen all day. (I am still painting, it’s not completed)
  • I’ve been calling people all morning. (I’m still calling people, it’s not completed)
  • I’ve called ten people so far. (those ten calls are comleted)

Note: state verbs can’t be used in the continuous form.

  • I’ve known her for ten years. (I still know her, but the form ’knowing’ is NOT correct)
  • I’ve had this car for a year. (I still have it, but the form ’having’ is NOT correct)

 

2. lately/ recently (action repeated many times not long ago)

  • I’ve been exercising a lot lately.
  • You haven’t been practising your French lately.
  • I’ve been seeing him a lot recently.
  • My son’s been drawing cartoons recently.
  • Tim’s been talking a lot about you lately.

 

3. WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING? recently finished activity with visible results in the present

  • ’Why are you so red?’ ’I’ve been sunbathing.’ (I stopped sunbathing a short time ago and now you can see the result)
  • ’Why are you covered in paint?’ ’I’ve been decorating the kitchen.’ (I stopped decorating a short time ago and now there’s paint on my clothes)
  • ’Why are you sweating? Have you been running?’ (the person is sweating, he or she stopped running a short time ago)
  • My mum is exhausted. She’s been cleaning the windows. (she stopped cleaning them a short time ago and now she’s exhausted)

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Promoter Answered on 27/04/2014.
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