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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Olson

A Tense Situation: Present Perfect Continuous

This is the second post in my segment, "A Tense Situation", which delves into the exciting world of the English verb system.


 

What is a tense, again?


Tense illustrates the relation between the verb and the time-frame, which is reflected in the form of the verb.

 

What is the present perfect continuous?


The present perfect continuous, also called the present perfect progressive, is a verb tense used to show that an action started in the past and has continued up to the present moment.


The present perfect continuous usually emphasizes duration, or the amount of time that an action has been taking place.


This tense is formed using the construction has/have been + the present participle (root + -ing).

 

Here are some examples


Duration from the past until now

  1. Sieglinde and Isolde have been talking for the last hour.

  2. What has Peter been doing for the last 30 minutes?

  3. We have been waiting here for over two hours!


Recently, lately, no specified duration

  1. Recently, Helena has been doing really well.

  2. Have you been sleeping well lately?

  3. Anne-Margret has obviously been practicing her English, look at how well she speaks!

 

Exceptions!


The present perfect continuous cannot be used with all verbs. These verbs are called stative verbs and they are verbs that cannot, inherently, be continuous.

 

Stative Verbs


Stative verbs describe a state rather than an action. They aren't usually used in the present continuous form.

Stative verbs can include the following:


Thoughts and opinions

  • agree, believe, doubt, imagine, know, mean, recognize, remember, think, understand

    • I have always known the truth.

      • I have been knowing the truth. (Wrong)

    • She has always liked strawberries.

      • She has been liking strawberries. (Wrong)

Feelings and emotions

  • dislike, hate, like, love, prefer, want, wish

senses and perceptions

  • appear, be, feel, hear, look, see, seem, smell, taste

possession and measurement:

  • belong, have, measure, own, possess, weigh.

 

Some verbs can be stative and continuous - with two different meanings


Living

  • I have lived in Ettlingen all my life...and I always will. (Stative)

    • The implication here is the speaker will probably not leave Ettlingen

  • I have been living in Ettlingen for three years...and it's time for a change. (Continous)

    • The implication here is the speaker will probably leave Ettlingen.

Thinking

  • Many times, I have thought, everything would work out in the end. (Stative)

  • I have been thinking, maybe everything will work out after all. (Continous)

Have

  • I have an old car. (Stative– possession)

  • I'm having a crisis. (Continous – having a break is an activity)

See

  • Do you see any problems with that? (Stative– opinion)

  • We're seeing James tomorrow afternoon. (Continous – we're meeting him)

Be

  • He's so interesting! (Stative– permanent quality)

  • He's being very unhelpful. (Continous – he is temporarily behaving this way)

Taste

  • This coffee tastes delicious. (Stative – our perception of the coffee)

  • Look! The chef is tasting the soup. (Continous – tasting the soup is an activity)

 

I hope we all learned something new about the present perfect continuous today - I know I did!


See you next time!


Kristiansand, Norway, 2015

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