negatives and the present perfect continuous: recent or ongoing activity?
Volencova from The Czech Republic asks:
1. Is it correct to use two nots in a sentence like: ‘Don’t
dare not to do it’?
Does the present perfect continuous tense have two meanings? What
makes me think that is the comparison of two sentences like: ‘It
has been snowing’ and ‘I have been learning English for five years.'
not very common, double negatives are fine in standard English,
provided they both carry a full meaning, as in your example. Further
examples might be:
'Never do nothing!' (I.e. Always do something!)
'Never say 'no', if he asks you to help him.' (I.e. Sometimes
'Don't think about not coming to the station to see me off. I
shall be so disappointed if you're not there.'
non-standard English, in certain dialects, two, or even three, negatives
may be used to express a single negative meaning. It is important
to recognise these dialectal forms, though it might sound strange
if you used them actively yourself. Here are a few examples:
do nothing!' (= He didn't do anything OR He did nothing.)
'Since I got
home last night, I ain't spoke to nobody nowhere.' (= Since I arrived
home last night, I haven't spoken to anybody anywhere.)
'We ain't got
no beer left. Shall I get some?' (= We haven't got any beer left. Shall
I fetch some?)
are different aspects of past continuous usage. In the example you
quote, 'It has been snowing', where there is no adverbial phrase,
the results or effects of the activity are still evident. It may
have stopped snowing for the time being, but the snow is almost
certainly still on the ground for all to see. Look at the following
examples of this usage. The final three examples are taken from
the Goldilocks and the Three Bears children's story when the bears
return home to find that their house has been disturbed:
'Gosh! You're out of breath. Have you been running?'
'You've been eating garlic, too. I can smell it on your breath.'
'Somebody's been eating my porridge.' (There's very little left.)
'Somebody's been sitting in my chair.' (The chair has been damaged.)
'Someone's been sleeping in my bed. And she's still there!'
Use of the present perfect continuous in the Goldilocks story increases
the suspense and makes us think that at any moment we shall discover
where Goldilocks is.
we use the present perfect continuous with a for/since adverbial
phrase, we are talking about actions which started in the past and
are still ongoing, as in your example, Jana. Further examples would
'You've been reading that book since Christmas and you still haven't
finished it yet!'
'How long have you been waiting?' 'I've been standing
here for half an hour. These buses never come.'
'John's been looking
for a job for over a year now, but he still hasn't found one.'
been working on this since six o' clock and now it's nearly midnight.
that when we use an adverbial phrase with for, we are talking
about a period of time up to the present. When we use an adverbial
phrase with since, we mention the starting time of the activity. Try
not to confuse the two usages. If we wanted to re-write the final
example above using a for-phrase, we would have to say: