Present perfect continuous (progressive)

(Using the continuous form of the English present perfect tense)

When is the present perfect continuous used?

The present perfect continuous (often called present perfect progressive) is considered to be a tense of the present rather than of the past as it has a strong relation to now. When using this tense, it is the action that has priority and which is emphasized. Compare the following possibilities of usage:

  • The present perfect continuous is used when an action needs to be emphasized that started in the past and is still ongoing in the present:
    • “She has been telling stories all day.”
    • “I’ve been waiting for the bus for 30 minutes now.”
  • It also describes a process that has taken place or is still taking place and that has an effect on the present:
    • “Tom is completely soaked. He has been standing in the rain for hours.”
    • “I’m very tired. I’ve been working all day.”
  • If you want to show the duration of habits, that have been taking place, the present perfect progressive can also be utilized:
    • “He has been taking part in competitions for over 12 years now.”
      • The person started 12 years ago and is still doing it.
    • “We’ve been going to that restaurant since 1998.”
      • They started to visit the restaurant in 1998 and still go there regularly.
  • Tip: Signal words that are frequently used with the present perfect continuous are: ‘for, since, all day, how long?, the whole day’, etc. They have been coloured in the previous example sentences.

What is the rule for forming the present perfect continuous?

The present perfect continuous needs two auxiliary verbs, which means it is formed by using the conjugated form of the auxiliary ‘to have’, the past participle of ‘to be’ (→ been), and the present participle (which is the ing-form) of the corresponding verb. Compare:

Conjugation rule for the present perfect continuous/progressive

Auxiliary verb ‘have/has’ + ‘been’ + present participle (ing-form) of the corresponding verb

Additional examples of the formation of the present perfect progressive

  • Very often, the auxiliary ‘have/has’ is shortened to ‘’ve/’s’:
    • “Sandra’s been sleeping for 6 hours.”
      • with the short form of the auxiliary verb ‘has’
    • “We’ve been studying Chinese for 2 years.”
      • with the short form of the auxiliary ‘have’

Further explanations relating to the ‘Present perfect continuous’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Use of the continuous form of the English present perfect tense (present perfect continuous)’ and may also be interesting for you: