Present perfect progressive

This lesson demonstrates how to form the present perfect progressive, also called the present perfect continuous, and explains how to use it. Before continuing, review these lessons:

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The present perfect progressive is formed with the simple present of the auxiliary verb HAVE (have | has), the past participle of the verb BE (been), and the present participle of another verb (verb+ing).

subject aux.
verb
past
part.
present
participle
 
I have been studying English for two years
She has been trying to find a job.
They have been working all day.

The present perfect progressive functions much like the present perfect. It shows continuity between a relationship or an action that began in the past and continues to this moment.

I have been living here for six years.

"I have lived here for six years" means the same thing, but the present perfect progressive puts a little more emphasis on the ongoing nature of the activity.

Sometimes the present perfect and the present perfect progressive are not interchangeable. For example:

I am in a literature class. The teacher poses a question:

Has anybody read Pablo Neruda?

 I read Neruda’s Veinte Poemas de Amor last year. I raise my hand and say:

Yes, I have read a book by Neruda.

This means, for example, that I finished the book a year ago and have not looked at it again. But if I say

I have been reading a book by Neruda

this indicates that I started reading the book in the past, I am continuing to read it right now, and I will finish it at some time in the future. The point is that I am still reading it, I have not finished. If I want to tell the teacher that I finished it, I need the present perfect (I have read a book by Neruda), which establishes a relationship between a completed past event (I read Neruda’s book) and the present event (we are talking about Neruda at this moment).

The present perfect progressive is sometimes used to ask about an action that very recently ended.

Have you been working in the garden?

Tom just entered the house. At the moment, he is not actually working in the garden. However, because he has vegetables in his hands and his clothes are dirty, I use the present perfect progressive to link this very recent past event with the present.

As noted in the first example, the present perfect and the present perfect progressive are sometimes interchangeable (I have lived here for six years = I have been living here for six years). Similarly, the present perfect progressive and the present progressive can be interchangeable (I have been reading a book by Neruda = I am reading a book by Neruda). The important thing to remember is when you are asked a question, always respond using the same tense and aspect. Here are examples of questions using the present perfect progressive and possible responses.

question   correct answer   incorrect answer
Has she been working? Yes, she’s been working. Yes, she is working.
What have you been doing? I have been reading. I am reading.
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