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    Present perfect continuous

    I went to talk to a friend of mine a few days back, who had just returned. Shortly before he left England for China, he was invited to attend a radio programme. It's about his visit to a remote village, where many people have lived for more than a century.

    When I was at his place, the radio station had already sent him a copy of the part of the programme in which he appeared. So we listened to the playback toghther and somewhere at the beginning he said that the DJ was under the impression that his wife always lives in that village. I had no idea where this came from, so I merely carried on listening.

    When I came back to my place, I listened to the playback again. This time, I did realise something quite peculiar.

    At the start of the programme, the DJ says:

    What is the secret of long life? An English writer, who now lives in China, has been visiting a village...
    I can't help relating these words to that comment of my friends'. My understanding is that the DJ believed that my friend's wife lives in that village. And my friend, as her husband, has to visit that village every day, thus justifying the use of present perfect continuous here. Although they have always lived in a big city.

    Then, after a second thought, I find that the use of the tense still couldn't be justified. According to what I was taught, one is allowed to use the tense only when an event started in the past still continues at the time of speaking. The thing is, my friend returned to England in the mid of Augest and only came back last week. He was informed to attend the programme while he was packing his stuff. Even though the DJ may have thought they actually live in the village, his use of the tense should not be considered measured.

    I'd like to hear what you would make of this usage.

    Many thanks


    PS:It's a real frustration to find more and more of my established understanding of the English language have been challenged by reallife usage.

    Maybe there're still things about the tense of which I have never heard?

    Or I shouldn't always presume what one says are perfectly grammatical only because he's an radio DJ working for a local BBC station? As far as I know, Mark Kermode does receive many mails with regard to his usage of grammar in his film reviews. After all, they are human beings too.

    Or maybe I should understand and respect that, despite of all rules set forth in books with regard to grammar and usages, as recommanded ways of expression, people do speak and write differently in a world that is not and can not be defined and regulated by few talented people we call language experts and grammarians.
    Last edited by cubezero3; 05-Nov-2010 at 01:00.

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    Re: Present perfect continuous

    Actually, this usage is perfectly normal - in BrE at any rate - to refer to recently finished actions/events (i.e. 'recently' in the view of the speaker) which are conceived of (again, in the mind of the speaker) as having some bearing on, or relation to, the current state of affairs.

    One commonly cited example is the following:

    A: You're out of breath! What have you been doing?
    B: I've been running.

    Even though the act itself has been terminated prior to the conversation, the use of the present perfect progressive lends the sense that its effects (here, breathlessness) nevertheless continue to be felt.

    An AmE speaker would probably use the past progressive here, "I was running".

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Present perfect continuous

    I am not totally sure of the order of events in the situation you wrote about but, if the words you quote were used by the announcer just before introducing a recording of the English writer describing his visit, then the tense is possible.

    The DJ is saying effectively: 'As we listen to this writer, we are in his 'present time' - i.e. at the moment that he is speaking. At this time, he has been visiting a village'.

    We are in effect imagining that the recorded description is a live description.

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