# Thread: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

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## Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

Hi!
I would like to know the differences between the following pairs of sentences:
1. Tom has lived here for 3 years. / Tom has been living here for 3 years.
2. He has worked as a teacher for a long time. / He has been working as a teacher for a long time.
3. What have you done this afternoon? / What have you been doing this afternoon?
4. It has snowed for 2 days. / It has been snowing for 2 days.
5. How long have you watched TV? / How long have you been watching TV?
6. Have you waited long? / Have you been waiting long?
7. Mary has worked all day. / Mary has been working all day.
8. They have collected stamps for four years. / They have been collecting stamps for four years.

Mia

2. ## Re: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

Present perfect tense: The action is finished and we can see the result.
It has rained. The ground is wet. But it isn't raining any more.
Present perfect continuous: The action is not finshed yet. It's stiil going on.
It has been raining since the morning. The rain hasn't stopped yet. It is still raining.

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## Re: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

Originally Posted by Harry Smith
Present perfect tense: The action is finished and we can see the result.
It has rained. The ground is wet. But it isn't raining any more.

Present perfect continuous: The action is not finshed yet. It's stiil going on.
It has been raining since the morning. The rain hasn't stopped yet. It is still raining.
That's not always or necessarily true about the simple present perfect, Harry. Actually, in the example you gave with the Present perfect, "It has rained" and the Present perfect continuous [without a time qualifier], " It has been raining", both denote a finished action, ie. the rain has stopped.

While the simple present perfect can denote a finished action, it often denotes an action that continues.

I've lived here for ten years. // I've been married for 50 years. // I've studied English seriously for 18 years. // ...

4. ## Re: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

I can agree withn you and I can't, because as for me present perfect shows a finished action with a visible result. What concerns to your sentences " I have lived here for 18 years" sometimes it's better to use Present perfect insteag of Pr. Perfect Cont.
If you want I can prove my own point of view. I'm tired of all these textbooks which are so different.

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## Re: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

Originally Posted by Harry Smith
I can agree withn you and I can't, because as for me present perfect shows a finished action with a visible result. What concerns to your sentences " I have lived here for 18 years" sometimes it's better to use Present perfect insteag of Pr. Perfect Cont.
If you want I can prove my own point of view. I'm tired of all these textbooks which are so different.
Please, Harry, go ahead and discuss whatever you would like wrt this issue.

Mia, I'm sorry that I'm/we're not answering your questions in as direct a fashion as you'd probably like but I must admit it's a bit perplexing. I've given some comments below noting differences and I'll try to address them in more detail later.

1. Tom has lived here for 3 years. / Tom has been living here for 3 years. Not finished.
2. He has worked as a teacher for a long time. / He has been working as a teacher for a long time. Almost certainly not finished.
3. What have you done this afternoon? / What have you been doing this afternoon? Speaker's intent may indicate finished but that doesn't mean the action being done is finished.
4. It has snowed for 2 days. / It has been snowing for 2 days. Not finished.
5. How long have you watched TV? / How long have you been watching TV? These two are to my mind, semantically different. The first sounds experiential and the second relates to a one time instance.
6. Have you waited long? / Have you been waiting long? Here the waiting is over, the person has arrived so both the SPP & the PPC are being used to discuss a finished action.
7. Mary has worked all day. / Mary has been working all day. Again, the situation could be either finsihed or not finished. "Mary has worked all day and she's still got two hours of overtime to do yet."
8. They have collected stamps for four years. / They have been collecting stamps for four years. Not finished.

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## Re: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

One problem here is that English, while having the capablilty of expressing the relationship between time periods and events within those time periods, does not have the structure of verb tense and mood inflections that other languages have.

That is why real-life English conversations are filled with questions like: "So, is it still raining now?" "Do you still live here?" or "Is she still working on it?"

I could say, "I have been working here for ten years," or "I have worked here ten years," and not one native English speaker in ten thousand would say that he heard a difference in meaning between the two sentences.

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## Re: Present perfect simple vs. present perfect continuous

Originally Posted by mykwyner
One problem here is that English, while having the capablilty of expressing the relationship between time periods and events within those time periods, does not have the structure of verb tense and mood inflections that other languages have. That is why real-life English conversations are filled with questions like: "So, is it still raining now?" "Do you still live here?" or "Is she still working on it?"

I have to disagree, Mike. English has the same capabilities as every other language. If and when a language "lacks" the necessary structure for effective communication, the gap is filled, maybe not in an instance but in time.

I could say, "I have been working here for ten years," or "I have worked here ten years," and not one native English speaker in ten thousand would say that he heard a difference in meaning between the two sentences.
I agree and maybe not 1 in 100 thousand would perceive a difference. But let me offer a word of caution here, well actually I'll let the LGSWE offer a word of caution. [no slight intended personally, Mike. I must admit that this happens to me all the time]

"... native speakers rarely have accurate perceptions of these differences. [frequency of use] ... When it comes to describing differences across registers, native-speaker intuition is even less reliable. ... most native speakers are not aware of the more pervasive differences in the use of core grammatical features." [LGSWE page8]

In this particular collocation, the difference is indeed, miniscule. But that isn't always the case. Look at the SPP compared to the PPC in the two examples below. Don't you perceive that the SPP would be more readily employed to state a miffed behavior on the speaker's part.

Granted, so so so so much depends on the context, but IMHO, the SPP is used in situations where a more serious demeanor is warranted. I think this is in keeping with the progressive generally, to tend towards the more casual/friendly.

3. What have you done this afternoon? / What have you been doing this afternoon?

5. How long have you watched TV? / How long have you been watching TV?

Still researching, still thinking, still .
Last edited by riverkid; 24-Sep-2006 at 21:27.

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