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Which tense is this: How long have you been learning English? It's the present perfect continuous - and that's what we're looking at in this session.

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I've been painting...

Neil and Catherine talk about the present perfect continuous. Find out which one to use when, listen out for lots of examples and see if you can score top marks in our quiz.

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Neil   
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Neil.

Catherine     
And me, Catherine.

Neil   
Today we're talking about the present perfect continuous tense.

Catherine
We’ll remind you when to use it and how to form it…

Neil   
We’ll also look at using it with the words just and already and other adverbs.

Catherine
And we’ll finish with a quiz. So let’s kick things off with an example of the present perfect continuous, read for us by Finn.

Finn
I’ve been reading that book you lent me last weekend… it’s great!

Catherine
Thank you Finn. So I’ve been reading… is an action that started in the past and is continuing in the present: Finn is still reading that book. Here’s another example:

Finn
It’s been raining since 9 o’clock this morning.

Neil
It has! It started raining in the morning, continued raining and it’s still raining now.

Catherine
We can also use the present perfect continuous for actions that have recently finished. An example, please Finn.

Finn
I’ve got paint all over my clothes because I’ve been decorating the living room.

Neil
Ah, so Finn's got paint all over his clothes, and that's the evidence he was painting but now he's finished. Another example please, Finn:

Finn
Joe! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to get hold of you… I’ve got some bad news.

Catherine
So, Finn has finally managed to find Joe. The action of looking for Joe has finished but Finn was looking right up until the moment he found him.

Neil
To say how long an action has been happening for, we can add a time expression.

Finn
Jack has got a big concert tomorrow. He’s been rehearsing all day.

We’ve been going to the same hotel for the last ten years.

Neil
Earlier, Finn said: it has been raining since 9 o’clock this morning.

Catherine
For three hours, for the last ten years and since 9 o’clock this morning tell us how long the activity has been happening.

Neil
The present perfect continuous is often used with the words already and just.

Catherine
That's right, we can use already if an action hasn’t finished, and we want to emphasise how long it’s been happening. Finn:

Finn
She’s already been sleeping for three hours.

This chicken has already been cooking for two hours.

Catherine
We use just when the action has already finished - and we want to emphasise how recently it finished.

Finn
There’s Yasemin – I’ve just been talking to her husband on the phone!

Catherine
We can also use recently or lately to say that a situation or action finished only a short while ago, but they are a little further back in time than just. So, Neil, have you been doing anything special recently…

Neil
Well, I’ve been trying to lose a bit of weight recently, so I’ve been going to the gym after work.

Catherine
It's starting to show a little bit.

Neil
Yes. How about you, Catherine…?

Catherine
Well, I’m afraid I haven't been going to the gym because I’ve been feeling rather tired lately and I haven’t been sleeping very well. 

Neil
You’ve been working too hard! Now, we form the present perfect continuous with the subject plus have or has and the present participle of the main verb. Here are some examples:

Finn
Jack has been working hard.

It’s been raining …

I’ve been reading that book …

Catherine
And for negatives, it’s subject plus haven’t or hasn’t and the present participle.

Finn
I haven’t been sleeping very well.

Catherine
We usually put just and already between have or has and the past participle. So it’s She’s already been sleeping for three hours.

Neil
and I’ve just been talking to her husband ….

Catherine
But time expressions usually go after the main verb. So it’s Jack’s been studying all day.

Neil
And don’t forget to use short forms like I’ve… It’s… haven’t… hasn’t with the present perfect continuous.

IDENT

6 Minute Grammar from the BBC.

Catherine
And we're talking about the present perfect continuous.

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

Catherine
And we often use it with the adverbs just and already, and with other time expressions like recently and lately.

Neil
Time for our quiz. Number one. Which is correct? The chicken only needs another fifteen minutes. It's a) …already been cooking for two hours, or b) It’s just been cooking for two hours.

Catherine
And that's a) because the chicken is still cooking.

Neil
That's correct. Number 2. a) Where have you been? I wait for you for half an hour. b) Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour.

Catherine
It’s b) because you use the present perfect continuous to say how long you have been doing an action. 

Neil
Finally, number 3. a) You’ve been listening just to 6 minute grammar. b) You’ve just been listening to 6 minute grammar. 

Catherine
It’s b) because just goes between the auxiliary have and been.

Neil
Correct and it’s the end of the show. There's lots more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar soon.

Both
Bye.

Download

You can download 6 Minute Grammar from our Unit 2 downloads page. Remember to subscribe to the podcast version!

End of Session 3

That's the end of this session. We hope you enjoyed practising the present perfect continuous. In the next session it's time for a singing contest!

Сеанс работы над грамматикой

  • Present perfect continuous tense

    Meaning and use

    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…

    Form - positive and negative

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

    • He’s been revising all day
    • I haven’t been drinking coffee recently

    Form - question

    • Have you been eating biscuits?

Сеанс работы над лексикой