Present Perfect Continuous | Examples & Exercises

The present perfect continuous is a verb tense used to refer to an action that started sometime in the past and is still ongoing. It also sometimes describes an action that was just completed, as long as it’s still relevant to the present (e.g., “I’ve been working hard all day, and now I’m getting some rest”).

The present perfect continuous consists of “have been” or “has been” (depending on the subject) followed by the present participle (“-ing” form) of the main verb.

Present perfect continuous forms
Affirmative Negative Interrogative
I have been learning I haven’t been learning Have I been learning?
You have been learning You haven’t been learning Have you been learning?
He/she/it has been learning He/she/it hasn’t been learning Has he/she/it been learning?
We have been learning We haven’t been learning Have we been learning?
You have been learning You haven’t been learning Have you been learning?
They have been learning They haven’t been learning Have they been learning?

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How to use the present perfect continuous

The present perfect continuous begins with either has (for the third-person singular) or have (for all other persons). It always continues with been (the past participle of “be”) followed by the present participle of the main verb. The subject may be contracted with “have” or “has” (e.g., “I’ve”, “she’s”).

This tense is used to refer to actions that:

  • Started in the past and are still ongoing
  • Were recently completed and have results that are still relevant to the present
Examples: How to use the present perfect continuous
Sven has been backpacking across Europe for the last six months. He’s currently in Poland.

She has been dancing all night and feels exhausted this morning.

I have been searching for a new apartment recently, but I haven’t had any luck so far.

Finally, you’re here! We’ve been waiting for your arrival.

Note
As with other continuous tenses, the present perfect continuous requires a dynamic verb – one that describes an action – and not a stative verb – one that describes a fixed state (e.g., “know”, “appear”). Use the present perfect instead with these verbs:

  • The United States of America has been existing as an independent nation since 1776.
  • The United States of America has existed as an independent nation since 1776.

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Present perfect continuous vs. present perfect

The present perfect and present perfect continuous can often be used interchangeably with little difference in meaning (e.g., “I have worked here for a long time” or “I have been working here for a long time”).

But there are situations where one is more appropriate than the other:

  • The present perfect continuous must refer to an action that is either still ongoing or only very recently completed.
  • The present perfect may refer to an action that’s still ongoing, but it may also describe an action that was completed a long time ago. Unlike the continuous, it may also be used with stative verbs (e.g., “I have known”).
    Examples: Present perfect continuous vs. present perfect
    Maria has been visiting Turkey regularly for the last few years.

    Ansel has visited Turkey before, but it’s been a while.

    Present perfect continuous vs. present continuous

    The present continuous should not be used interchangeably with the present perfect continuous. Both tenses usually describe an ongoing action, but the present continuous differs in a few ways:

    • It never refers to a completed action (“I am walking” never means that I’ve recently stopped walking).
    • It doesn’t place emphasis on the past and shouldn’t be used with adverbial phrases that do (i.e., “I am walking since 2 o’clock” is incorrect).
    • It can also refer to the future (e.g., “I am going to Rome in September”).

    How to form negatives

    To create a negative statement in the present perfect continuous, just add the adverb not between “have”/”has” and “been”. It may also be contracted as “haven’t” or “hasn’t” in informal contexts.

      Examples: Negative present perfect continuous
      The family has not been skiing this winter.

      I haven’t been socialising very much lately.

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      How to form questions

      Yes–no questions can be formed in the present perfect continuous by changing the word order: use “has”/”have”, followed by the subject, and then “been” and the present participle of the main verb.

        Examples: Present perfect continuous questions
        Has the dog been misbehaving?

        Have we been providing you with sufficient guidance and feedback?

        You can form other types of questions with wh-words (interrogative pronouns like “whom” and interrogative adverbs like “when”). Add the appropriate wh-word at the start, and then use the same word order as above.

          Examples: Present perfect continuous questions with wh-words
          How has the dog been behaving?

          Whom have you been visiting?

          How to form the passive voice

          It’s possible to use the present perfect continuous in the passive voice, but it’s quite rare to do so and often reads awkwardly. The awkwardness results from how long-winded this phrasing is and from the repetitive sound of “been being”.

          If you do want to use the passive voice, the phrasing is “has/have been being” followed by the past participle of the main verb. But it’s almost always better to use the active voice instead or rephrase in some other way:

          • John is convinced that he has been being followed for the last three miles.
          • John is convinced that someone has been following him for the last three miles.
          • Faisal has been being trained for his new position since June.
          • Faisal has been in training for his new position since June.

          Exercises: Present perfect continuous

          Practice using the present perfect continuous correctly with the exercises below. In the blank space in each sentence, fill in the correct present perfect continuous form based on the subject and verb specified (e.g., “[she / ask]” becomes “she has been asking”). Some answers may also be negative statements or questions.

          1. __________ [I / think] a lot about my future.
          2. __________ [she / work] for the company for a long time.
          3. __________ [my dog / not / behave] herself lately.
          4. __________ [researchers / investigate] this phenomenon since the 1980s.
          5. __________ [we / look forward] to meeting you!
          6. Where __________ [you / stay] while you’re in town?
          1. I have been thinking a lot about my future.
          1. She has been working for the company for a long time.
            • “Has” is used with the third-person singular subject “she”. It would also be fine to write the contraction “she’s” in place of “she has”.
          1. My dog hasn’t been behaving herself lately.
            • “Has” is again used for the third person singular. Here, it’s contracted with “not” to create a negative statement. It would also be fine to write “has not” instead.
          1. Researchers have been investigating this phenomenon since the 1980s.
            • The third-person plural subject “researchers” requires “have”.
          1. We’ve been looking forward to meeting you!
            • The contraction “we’ve” is used here to combine the subject with the auxiliary verb “have”. It would also be fine to write “we have”.
          1. Where have you been staying while you’re in town?
            • To creature a question (interrogative), the word order is changed so that the subject (“you”) appears after the auxiliary verb (“have”).

           

          Other interesting language articles

          If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

          Frequently asked questions about the present perfect continuous

          What is the difference between the present perfect and the present perfect continuous?

          The present perfect tense and the present perfect continuous can both be used to refer to the present consequences of a past action or situation:

          • The present perfect can be used to refer to a past action that may continue in the present (e.g., “I have lived here for six months”).
          • The present perfect continuous refers to actions or situations that began in the past and are definitely continuing in the present (e.g., “I have been arguing with him constantly”).
          What is the ‘-ing’ form of a verb?

          The ‘-ing’ form of a verb is called the present participle. Present participles can be used as adjectives (e.g., ‘a thrilling story’) and to form the continuous verb tenses (e.g., the present continuous: ‘We are partying‘).

          Gerunds also use the ‘-ing’ form of a verb, but they function only as nouns (e.g., ‘I don’t enjoy studying‘).

          What is the difference between a participle and a gerund?

          Present participles and gerunds look identical, but they have different grammatical functions:

          • Present participles are used in various verb tenses (e.g., ‘I have been eating’) and as adjectives (e.g., ‘a laughing child’).
          • Gerunds function as nouns (e.g., ‘I enjoy jogging’).

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          Jack Caulfield

          Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.