Present Perfect, simple or continuous?

Let’s play some music now and enjoy this video…

The singer has done a lot of things in his life to try and be with his lover. The lyrics includes all those experiences in his life so he uses present perfect to express so.

However, present perfect has two different forms, simple and continuous and that’s what makes English students crazy. Let’s have a thorough look at it:


Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Progressive
form of ‘have’ + past participle          I’ve visited Germany twice form of ‘have’ + been + verb + ing  I’ve been travelling lately


Both tenses are used to express that an action began in the past and is still going on or has just finished. Often there is very little difference between the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous. In many cases, both are equally acceptable…

  • They’ve been working here for a long time but Andy has worked here for even longer.
  • I’ve lived here for 10 years and she has been living here for 12 years.

…but there is often a difference in meaning:

Present Perfect Simple Present Perfect Continuous
> to talk about life experiences (usually single actions) when you don’t say when something happened, e.g. I’ve had a piano lesson
> for repeated actions, e.g. I’ve been having piano lessons
> for permanent situations, e.g. James has lived in this town for 10 years. (Meaning: He is a permanent resident of this town.) > for temporary situations, e.g. James has been living here for a year. (Meaning: This situation is only temporary. Maybe he is an exchange student and only here for one or two years.)
> for finished/completed actions to emphasize the result, e.g. I have written 5 letters
> for actions still in progress, e.g. I have been writing for an hour.
> Emphasis on completion, e.g. I have done my homework. (Meaning: My homework is completed now.) > Emphasis on duration, e.g. I have been doing my homework. (Meaning: That’s how I have spent my time. It does not matter whether the homework is completed now.)
> with expressions such as just, already, ever, yet, how often, …times and superlatives > with expressions such as how long, for, since

Remember that there are certain verbs (state verbs) that are usually only used in simple tenses (not in the progressive form).

Exercises on Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Progressive:

are these sentences in present perfect correct or not?

present perfect simple or continuous?

been or gone?

This entry was posted in Face2face Intermediate, Grammar, Lesson 3, Speak Out Intermediate, Textbook, Unit 2. Bookmark the permalink.

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