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Verb Tenses: Present Perfect Simple vs. Present Perfect Progressive Posted by on Aug 17, 2012 in English Grammar

Today we are taking a look at two closely related verb tenses in English, these tenses are: present perfect simple and present perfect progressive (also called: present perfect continuous).  Both of these tenses are used to express that an action began in the past and is still going on or has just finished.  In many cases, either of these verb tenses can be used, but there is a difference in meaning between them which you should be familiar with.  In general, we use the present perfect simple tense to express that an action is completed or to emphasize the result of the action. We use the present perfect progressive tense usually to highlight the duration or continuous nature of an action.

Here is how to create these two commonly used tenses:

Present Perfect Progressive Present Perfect Simple
‘have’ or ‘has’ + been + verb + ing ‘have’ or ‘has” + infinitive verb + ed
(I/you/we/they) have been speaking(he/she/it) has been speaking (I/you/we/they) have worked(he/she/it) has worked
Example: I have been cooking all day. Example: I had cooked all day.

Here are some key differences between these tenses and some examples:

Present Perfect Progressive Present Perfect Simple
– focuses on the action or event. Example: I have been writing letters all morning. – focuses on what has been completed or finished. Example: I have written letters since this morning.
– used to speak about more temporary situations or conditions. Example: The television hasn’t been working lately. – used to speak about more permanent situations or conditions. Example: The television hasn’t worked for three years.
– focuses on how long something has happened. Example: He has been calling me all week. – focuses on how many times something has happened. Example: He has called me 30 times.

Here is a little practice for you.  Based on the information present above, see if you can decide which tense works best in the sentences below.

I will give you the answers to these fill-in-the-blank sentences in my next post.

1. I _________(eat) chocolate everyday since I was a child.
2. How long ________ (live) in the United States?
3. She ______ (go) to the store 10 times today, and now she needs to go again.
4. They ________ (wait) to see the doctor for over two hours.
5. My computer _______ (work- negative form) well in years.  It is time for me to buy a new one.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


Comments:

  1. Daniela:

    1. I have been eating chocolate everyday since I was a child.
    2. How long have you been living in the United States?
    3. She has gone to the store 10 times today, and now she needs to go again.
    4. They have waited to see the doctor for over two hours.
    5. My computer hasn’t worked well in years. It is time for me to buy a new one.

    • gabriele:

      @Daniela Daniela,
      Thank you for sharing your answers! This is very well done. There are only two changes I would make:

      3. She has been (instead of gone) to the store 10 times today, and now she needs to go again.
      4. They have been waiting (instead of have waited) to see the doctor for over two hours.

  2. Steve:

    Very well written and clearly explained these two confusing tenses