Wabii Caasluga

The present perfect continuous tense

Meaning and use

We use the present perfect continuous to talk about an activity that started in the past and is continuing now or has recently finished.

  • I’ve been reading that new book you lent me… I’m really enjoying it. (= action still in progress)
  • Is that Joe? I’ve been trying to contact you. I’ve got some bad news. (= action recently finished)

We often use it to emphasise the continuous, ongoing nature of the activity or to say how long the activity has continued.

  • She’s already been sleeping for two hours.
  • It’s been raining all morning.
  • I’ve been decorating the house this summer.

When we use the present perfect continuous for situations that have recently finished, we often use the adverb just.

  • 'You’ve got paint all over your T-shirt.' 'Oh, I’ve just been painting the living room.'

We often use recently and lately with the present perfect continuous.

  • I’m really tired. I haven’t been sleeping well lately.

Form

The present perfect continuous is made with:

subject + have/has/haven’t/hasn’t + been + present participle of main verb.

We put just and already between have/has and the past participle. We usually put adverbs of time and duration after the main verb.

Positive

  • Jack’s working very hard for his exams. He’s been revising all day.
  • I’ve been working at the café for two weeks.
  • You’ve been watching far too much telly for too long. Why don’t you take up a new sport?

Negative

  • I haven’t been drinking coffee these last few days and my head is much clearer.
  • Doctor, I’ve been feeling dizzy and faint in the mornings.

Question

Present perfect continuous questions are made with:

have/has not + subject + present participle.

  • Have you been eating all the biscuits? There are none left!
  • What have you been doing? You look exhausted!

Take note: present perfect continuous and present perfect

Some verbs are almost never used in the present perfect continuous. We use the present perfect instead. The most familiar examples of these are be and know.

WRONG: She’s been being here for ten minutes.

CORRECT: She’s been here for 10 minutes.

WRONG: I’ve only been knowing him since last week.

CORRECT: I’ve only known him since last week.

Take note: already

It is possible to put already at the end of a positive sentence or question.

  • He has already been talking for ten minutes.
  • Has he already been talking for ten minutes?
  • He has been talking for ten minutes already.
  • Has he been talking for ten minutes already?

Pronunciation

In sentences with just and already, there is usually no stress on has/have or on just/already. The stress is on the subject and the present participle.

  • The chicken has already been cooking for an hour and a half.
  • I have just been thinking about Joe. Do you think he’s better now?

But we can put stress on just/already if we want to emphasise how recently or early something happened.

  • The chicken must be ready by now. It’s already been cooking for an hour and a half.
  • Oh, hi Joe. I’ve just been talking about you to Sophie!