The present perfect continuous tense is usually used to refer to ongoing activities or gradual developments that started in the past and continue until the present time.

Here, I explain how to form them in sentences and questions, the timeline and how this tense is used in English.

Contents:

Form

Affirmative sentences 

Full form:

subject + “has/have been” + present participle form of verb

Contracted form:

subject + “-‘s/-‘ve been” + present participle form of verb

  • “He’s been having a difficult time at school.”
  • “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
Negative sentences 

Full form:

subject + “has/have not been” + present participle form of verb

Contracted form:

subject + “hasn’t/haven’t been” + present participle form of verb

  • “I haven’t been feeling well lately.”
  • “If he hasn’t been working, then what has he been doing all day?”
Questions 

Full forms:

(a) “has/have” + subject + “been” + present participle form of verb

(b) question word + “has/have” + subject + “been” + present participle form of verb

  • Has it been raining?”
  • What have you been doing?”
Negative questions

It is possible to make negative questions even though their uses are quite specific. [See also: Negative questions]

The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. Contracted forms are preferred in general.

Contracted forms:

(a) “hasn’t/haven’t” + subject + “been” + present participle form of verb

(b) question word + “hasn’t/haven’t” + subject + “been” + present participle form of verb

Full forms:

(a) “has/have” + subject + “not been” + present participle form of verb

(b) question word + “has/have” + subject + “not been” + present participle form of verb

  • Hasn’t it been raining?
  • What have you not been doing?”

Timeline

For this tense, it is useful to ask, Until this point, what was happening?”

Events are often gradual developments or ongoing activities that started in the past and develops until the present time.

Keep in mind however, that these events can often be ongoing or unfinished.


Uses of the Present perfect continuous tense

The uses can be divided into ongoing and completed events.

Ongoing events

1.   To talk about ongoing activities.
  • “I‘ve been reading a book about the history of Australia.”
  • “We‘ve been living in the same house for the past 20 years.”
2.   To talk about habitual activities.
  • “She hasn’t been eating much since she lost her job.”
  • How long have you been studying English?”

Completed events

3.   To talk about recently completed activities.
  • “He finally came out of his room. He‘s been playing games all day.”
  • “I hope he likes it. They‘ve been working on it for a month.”

Original post: 14 October 2020

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