Present Perfect Progressive

The Present Perfect Progressive Tense Explained with Examples

The Present perfect progressive tense (or Present perfect continuous tense, as it's also known) shows action that has been continuously happening up to the present moment.

We use this verb tense to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now; or that an action has been happening over time until now. Simply put, the present perfect progressive has the meaning of lately or recently.

The present perfect progressive tense is usually combined with a length of time phraseOpens in new window (such as, ‘for few seconds/five minutes’, ‘for all day/morning/weeks’, and ‘since Monday/last month,’ etc.) to indicate action that started in the past and continues to the present.

See Practical Examples
  • I’ve been cleaning my house all day.
  • Gretchen has been reading since noon.
  • We’ve been waiting for Andy for over an hour.

Perhaps you have studied and understood the meaning of present perfect tenseOpens in new window, you might be wondering, “How come! present perfect progressive seems to have the same meaning as present perfect tense.”

You’re right, present perfect with a length of time almost always means the same as present perfect progressive. That raises some questions: “Are present perfect and present perfect progressive always the same? And if they’re not, when should I use present perfect, and when should I use present perfect progressive? You’ll find the answers to these questions down below.

How to Use the Present Perfect Continuous Tense

1.  Expression of Affirmative Statements with Present Perfect Continuous — To make affirmative statement with present perfect continuous tense, the Structure: Subject + has/have + been + verb–ing (form) is used.

See Practical Examples
  • Andy has been thinking about getting a new car.
  • Laurel and Benson have been remodeling their garage.
  • We’ve been studying verb tenses for so long that now we’re beginning to have gray hair.

2.  Expression of Negative Statements with Present Perfect Continuous Tense — To make negative statement with present perfect continuous tense, the Structure: Subject + has/have + not been + verb–ing (form) is used. The Contraction form: Subject + hasn’t/haven’t + not been + verb–ing(form) is also used.

See Practical Examples
  • Andy has not been spending time with his family since he started a part time course.
  • Lola hasn’t been using her favorite car recently.
  • Mum and Dad have not been going to church together.

3.  Expression of Interrogative Statements with Present Perfect Continuous Tense — To make interrogative statement using present perfect continuous tense, the Structure: (interrogative word) + have/has + subject + been + verb–ing (form) is used.

See Practical Examples
  • Has Andy been attending English classes?
  • Where has Lola been taking dancing practices?
  • Why have they been avoiding one another?

4.  Expression of Negative Interrogative statements with Present Perfect Continuous Tense. — To make negative interrogative statement using present perfect continuous tense, the Structure: (interrogative word) + have/has not + subject + been + verb–ing (form) is used. However, the Contracted Form: (interrogative word) + haven’t/hasn’t + subject + been + verb–ing (form) is sometimes preferred.

See Practical Examples
  • Hasn’t Andy been attending English classes?
  • Haven’t they been avoiding one another?
  • Has not Lola been taking dancing practices?

Note that the Interrogatives are rarely used in formal contexts. Chances are you will seldom have needs to use them.

What's this?

Difference between Present Perfect Progressive Tense and Present Perfect Tense

The biggest difference between these two tenses lies in the fact that present perfect is a bit of a headache because it has more than three different meanings depending on the time phrase it is used with, but present perfect progressive, on the other hand, has only one meaning.

Present Perfect Tense: Variation of Meanings

Now we can observe the meanings of present perfect tense:

Meaning #1
  • Ms. Allyson has taught BUS 211 since the beginning of the semester.
  • (When we use present perfect + a length of time, it means the action started in the past and has continued until now.)
Meaning #2
  • Ms. Allyson has taught BUS 211.
  • (This sentence has a different meaning. When we use present perfect without a time phrase, it means the action ended in the past, but the time is not clear.)
Meaning #3
  • Ms. Allyson has taught BUS 211 today.
  • (This sentence also has a different meaning. When we use present perfect with a time phrase that includes the present, it means about the same as the simple past.)

Present perfect progressive on the other hand, is straightforward and simple. It only has one meaning; it always means this action has been happening over time until now (or almost until now).

With present perfect, we always need to use a length of time to show it is present perfect. But with present perfect progressive, it doesn’t matter if we use a time phrase or not; it always means the same thing.

Examples of Present perfect progressive tense
  • I have been working on the plant since last month.
  • (This action has been happening over time until now.)
  • I have been working on the plant.
  • (This action has been happening over time until now.)
  • I have been working on the plant today.
  • (This action has been happening over time until now.)

When it’s ideal to use present perfect progressive tense

As we learned earlier, present perfect progressive has the same meaning as present perfect, so we can often use either one and still have the same meaning.

Comparative Examples:
Present Perfect
  • I have taught at St. Mary’s Anglican School for eight years.
Present Perfect Progressive
  • I have been teaching at St. Mary’s Anglican School for eight years.

These two sentences mean the same thing: The described action has been happening over time until now.

Present Perfect
  • Andy has worked in the same store for several innumerable years.
Present Perfect Progressive
  • Andy has been working in the same store for several innumerable years.

These two sentences mean the same thing: The described action has been happening over time until now.

simple-rule

Simple Rule for Using Present Perfect Progressive.

When an action started in the past and has continued until now:

See Practical Examples:
  • Ms. Allyson has been teaching BUS 211 since she was 22.
  • (This action started in the past and has continued until now. Teach isn’t a stative verb, so we used present perfect progressive.)
  • Ever since he was a child, Effiong has believed in treating others kindly.
  • (This action started in the past and has continued until now, but I have to use present perfect + a length of time because believe is a stative verb.)
  • George has been trying to fix that toaster for hours.
  • (This action started in the past and has continued until now. Try isn’t a stative verb, so we use present perfect progressive.)
  • Afam has known Effiong since they were both twelve.
  • (This action started in the past and has continued until now, but we have to use present perfect + a length of time because know is a stative verb.)

It would be great if we could always use either tense, but unfortunately, sometimes only one sounds correct to native speakers (for example, the sentence, “Cassius has eaten dinner for an hour” sounds wrong.)

When should we use present perfect progressive and when should we use present perfect meaning #2?

The actual rule for this is complicated, but if you follow this simpler rule, you’ll always be okay. (If you really want to follow the whole episode of this study, click on this link for “MORE THAN THE SIMPLE RULE.” Opens in new window