How to Use the Present Perfect Continuous Like a Native Speaker

Podcast #1 How to Use the Present Perfect Continuous

Are you confused about how to use the present perfect continuous?

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • what we mean when we say “perfect” tenses and “continuous” tenses
  • the two main uses of the present perfect continuous, and
  • how the present perfect continuous is often used with “recently,” “how long,” “for,” and “since.”

How to Use the Present Perfect and the Present Perfect Continuous

Many non-native speakers struggle when they’re learning the present perfect because there are many different uses and it’s usually different than your native language.

However, when students feel like they’ve finally mastered the present perfect, now it’s time to move on to the present perfect continuous.

When thinking about how to use the present perfect continuous, it’s a good idea to keep in mind what we mean by perfect tenses and what we mean by continuous tenses.

Perfect tenses show a connection between two different time periods.

In this case, the present perfect shows a connection between a past moment and the present moment.

Continuous tenses emphasize an action that is in progress or an action that is ongoing.

The action may be temporary, or a change from a normal habit or routine.

When we combine the present perfect with the present continuous, we get the present perfect continuous.

The present perfect continuous focuses on an action that began in the past, and continues until now, and emphasizes the temporary or recent behavior of this action.

In addition, when I choose to use the present perfect continuous, I’m focusing my attention on the action.

I want my listener to understand that this action is more important than the result of this action.

For example, I might say, “I’ve been riding my bike a lot recently.”   The reason that I use the present perfect continuous in this sentence is that I want to emphasize the action of riding my bike.

I could also say, “Recently I have been riding my bike a lot more than usual.”

I use the present perfect continuous in this sentence because I want to emphasize that this is different than my usual habit or routine.

For instance, I’ve been riding my bike a lot recently because it’s summer, and I love being outside in the summer.

In this example, the action is still ongoing.  I’ve been riding my bike a lot recently, and I’m probably going to continue doing so until the end of the summer.

Another example of this use of the present perfect continuous is “He’s been working a lot this week.”  This suggests that he doesn’t usually work so much. Maybe he has a special project or a deadline so he needs to do extra work to finish it.

These examples show you the most common use of the present perfect continuous.

However, there is another use of the present perfect continuous which can be a little more confusing.

The present perfect continuous can also be used to emphasize an action that has recently been completed, with a result that I can see right now.

For example, if I’m walking down the street and I see my friend carrying a lot of shopping bags, I might ask her, “Have you been shopping?”

I can see the result of her action of shopping in the present moment.  She isn’t shopping at the moment, but she has been shopping recently, so I would say, she’s carrying a lot of bags because she’s been shopping.

Another example is when you look outside and you see that the ground is wet. The ground is wet because it’s been raining. It’s not raining at the moment, but it was raining up until recently, so I can see the result right now in the present moment. So I say, “It’s been raining, so the ground is wet.”

Another important point to remember about the present perfect continuous is that we use it to emphasize how long we’ve been doing an action.  For example, I can say, “I’ve been living here for three years.”  This shows you that this action began in the past, continues until now, and is ongoing.

We often use for and since with the present perfect continuous.  This is why people ask you things like “How long have you been studying English?”  “I’ve been studying English since 2010.  I’ve been studying English for four years.”

As you can see from these examples, the present perfect continuous is not that complicated to use.

The good news is that when you use the present perfect continuous in conversation, it helps you sound more natural and more like a native speaker. It also shows that you know more advanced grammar and you feel comfortable using it.

Your Turn

I hope that you understand the present perfect continuous a little more after listening to this podcast. Now it’s your turn! Leave a comment below using the present perfect continuous. Choose whichever use you’d like to practice. I’ll let you know how you did!

Want to use grammar more naturally? Click here to explore my other resources on using grammar structures like a native speaker.

4 thoughts on “How to Use the Present Perfect Continuous Like a Native Speaker”

  1. Thank your for this very useful podcast/article. By providing nice examples and explaining why you actually chose the present perfect continuous, you’ve really helped me to better understand the use of it. The devil is in the details, as they say 🙂

    While I was revising the present perfect continuous some time ago, I wrote down a few examples from different grammar books, which also helped me to get the general idea of the tense. Let me share them with you:
    I’ve been reading your book – it’s great. I’ve got another 50 pages to read. (here I want to emphasise the action of reading the book)
    Similarly:
    I’ve been standing up all day and my feet are killing me!
    This test result is much better. It’s clear you’ve been revising.
    You’ve been fighting again! (I can see that you have been fighting because you have a black eye, torn clothes etc.)
    I’ve been learning English for 10 years. (the focus here is on the duration of the action)
    The car has been breaking down a lot recently. (the focus here is on the repetitive character of the action)
    I’m decorating my room so I’ve been sleeping on the sofa. (the action is temporary and we want to stress that we’re sleeping on the sofa for the time being)

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your examples. You definitely understand the proper use of the present perfect continuous now! Now that you’ve mastered this tense, you’ll probably notice how common it is in natural speech. I think using the present perfect continuous confidently helps you sound more fluent, too – you’re expressing your meaning clearly and just like we would. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi , what about the sentence :
    He’s been residing in Paris during the quarantine.
    I cannot exactly determine whether the action is still going on or has stopped recently. And where’s the sentence stress here ?
    Thank you

    Reply

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