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The English language features 12 different verb tenses, and keeping them all straight can be quite the task—even (and sometimes especially) for native speakers!

But have no fear: we’re here to help! In this post, we’ll explore the present perfect continuous tense, which allows us to describe events that started in the past, but continue in the present.

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

To start, let’s review some examples of the different forms of the present tense: 

  • Simple present: I like dogs. 
  • Present perfect: I’ve seen the new movie. 
  • Present continuous or present progressive: She is eating right now. 
  • Present perfect continuous: He has been practicing every day. 

Forming the Present Perfect Progressive Tense 

To form the present perfect continuous tense, also known as the present perfect progressive tense, all you have to do is use the following formula:

has/have been + the present participle (root + ing) 

Remember to use “has” for a singular noun or pronoun and “have” for a plural noun or pronoun, including the pronoun “you.” 

For example:

  • The dog has been barking incessantly for the past hour.
  • It’s been raining the whole morning.
  • Arabella has been joining piano recitals recently. 
  • Miguel has been coming late to work lately. 

Important Note: Don’t Use Non-Continuous Verbs 

Remember to use only continuous verbs in the continuous tense. Non-continuous verbs refer to actions that you cannot see a person doing. These include: 

  • Abstract verbs: to be, to care, to contain, to cost, to exist, to owe, to seem, to want
  • Possession verbs: to belong, to own, to possess
  • Emotion verbs: to dislike, to envy, to fear, to like, to love, to hate, to mind 

Non-continuous verbs may not be used in any progressive tenses. Instead, use the present perfect tense for these verbs, which is has/have + the past participle: 

  • Incorrect: He has been seeming lost. 
  • Correct: He has seemed lost. 
  • Incorrect: The dog has been belonging to her for the last three years. 
  • Correct: The dog has belonged to her for the last three years. 

Function of the Present Perfect Continuous Tense 

The present perfect continuous tense can serve the following functions:

1. Indicate an action that began in the past and continues to the present

Use the present perfect continuous tense to indicate an action that began in the past and is still happening in the present. 

Examples: 

  • He has been sleeping since 7 last night. 
  • She has been working as a freelance writer for three years. 
  • What have the students been doing since the teacher left the room? 

2. To emphasize the duration of an event

Use the present perfect progressive tense to show how long a person or thing has been doing something. You can use “since + time” or “for the last + time frame” to show this duration. 

Examples: 

  • He has been hiding out in his room for the last three hours
  • She has been waiting for him for two hours
  • Janet has been teaching in Thailand since 2015. 

3. To show an action that happened recently or lately. 

You may also use the present perfect progressive tense to show an event or action that happened very recently, usually just before you made the statement. In this case, you may choose to add the adverb “recently” or “lately.” Even if you don’t add the adverb, the tense inherently has that meaning. 

Examples: 

  • I’ve been feeling really groggy lately. 
  • The kids have been having too much gadget time; I think it’s time to put a stop to it. 
  • She’s been eating a lot of sweets recently

Implications of Perfect Present Continuous Tense in Asking Questions

Because the present perfect continuous tense indicates something that happened recently or lately, be careful how you use it when asking questions. Asking a question in the present perfect continuous tense suggests that you can see, hear, or smell the results of the action in question. 

For example: 

  • Have you been drinking? (This implies that something about them indicates that they have just had one too many cocktails.)
  • Have you been feeling well? (This implies that something about them makes you think they are unhealthy.) 
  • Have you been doing your chores?  (This implies you think they may not be doing their chores consistently.)

Present Perfect Continuous Tense Quiz 

Test your knowledge with this free Present Perfect Continuous Tense Quiz PDF. Fill in the blanks with the present perfect continuous tense using the verb in the parentheses. 

  1. Have you (see) _____________________ Steve behind my back? 
  2. Her husband (drink) _______________________ every night since the accident happened. 
  3. The forest fires (spread) ___________________________ at an alarming rate. 
  4. Have you (watch) ______________________________ horror movies lately? That must be why you (have) ______________________________ nightmares. 
  5. David (stay up) ________________________ late reading fantasy novels. 
  6. Sam (hanker) _________________________ for a new bicycle, so his parents helped him set up a money goal jar. 
  7. The same song (ring) ________________________ in my ears over and over. 
  8. The author (write) ______________busy ____________ the next book in the series; it should be out soon! 
  9. The policemen (watch) ____________________________ the house while the Smiths are away. 
  10. I’ve (wait) ____________________________ for the past hour, and he didn’t show. 

Answer Key: 

  1. Have you been seeing Steve behind my back? 
  2. Her husband has been drinking every night since the accident happened. 
  3. The forest fires have been spreading at an alarming rate. 
  4. Have you been watching horror movies lately? That must be why you’ve been having nightmares. 
  5. David has been staying up late reading fantasy novels. 
  6. Sam has been hankering for a new bicycle, so his parents helped him set up a money goal jar. 
  7. The same song has been ringing in my ears over and over. 
  8. The author has been busy writing the next book in the series; it should be out soon!
  9. The policemen have been watching the house while the Smiths are away. 
  10. I’ve been waiting for the past hour, and he didn’t show. 

Using the Present Perfect Continuous Tense 

Knowing how to use the different tenses can give you more power over your communication. If you need more exposure, read novels and observe the tenses that the author uses throughout the story. 

Since the narrative is usually in the past tense, you will likely find the present perfect continuous tense in the conversations that the characters have. Copy these sentences to become more familiar with how it’s used. 

Practice using the present perfect continuous tense by writing sentences using the tense so you can become more comfortable at using it when you need it. 

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