Present Perfect Continuous: Everything You Need To Know

At Everywhere English, we are committed to your learning. As we focus on industry-specific English language lessons, we want to give you a head start with your skills. This week we discuss all things, Present Perfect Continuous. Yes we know, it’s a mouthful!  

Our third of this unique blog series will highlight the importance of the present perfect continuous tense, along with how to use it and some of the common examples. It’s also known as the present perfect progressive, so if you hear this term in the future, it’s the exact same thing. 


What is the Present Perfect Continuous?

The present perfect continuous a is a verb tense that indicates that an action began in the past and has continued until now. It frequently stresses duration, or how long an action has been going on. 

In our first blog of this series, we touched on the present continuous. They sound extremely similar and it is quite easy to mix them up! So, what is the difference between the two? In simple terms, the present continuous tense is used when somebody describes an event or narrates something connected with an event or a happening. On the other hand, present perfect continuous tense is normally used in short story writing and novel writing for that matter.

We use the present perfect continuous to talk about repeated activities which started at a particular time in the past and are still continuing up until now: I’ve been going to Spain on holiday every year since 1987. I haven’t been eating much lunch lately. I’ve been going to the gym at lunchtime.

Please note: You’ll notice that we’ll use words like “normally” and “majority”. There’s a reason! English is a tricky language, and in every rule, there will come an exception. You will come across these exceptions from time to time. When you do, please ask your tutor to explain. For the most part, unfortunately, it’s just a case of memorizing them. 


When to use it

You will see the present perfect continuous pop up in 2 different instances: 

  1. Duration of the past until now, something that started in the past and has continued up until now. You’ll normally spot time phrases such as “for 2 weeks” or “this year” in the sentences too. 
  2. Another use for the present perfect continuous tense is using it without a duration. It will still imply the action started in the past up until the present but will use words such as “lately” in the sentence instead. 


The Affirmative Form

Like the present continuous, the affirmative form or the positive form of the present perfect continuous tense uses the present participle (-ing), but unlike the present continuous, it uses has or have instead of the verb “to be”. The sentences are structured like so: 

Subject + Has/have + been + verb + ing


Some Examples:

  • I have been riding my bike to school.
  • You only have been missing class for a month.
  • He has been working a lot lately.
  • They have been meeting in the library for the past year. 
  • We have been presenting the business proposal for 3 years. 

stack of papers and work to do

The Negative Form

The negative format of the present perfect continuous tense is as straightforward as the present continuous. You are simply adding a not to the sentence. The sentence will look something like this: 

Subject + have/has + not + been + verb + ing


Some Examples:

  • I have not been taking the dog for a walk recently. 
  • You have not been listening to my issues during our talks. 
  • She has not been driving since the accident. 
  • They have not been posting on social media about their campaign. 
  • We have not been going to that restaurant since the food poisoning. 


The Interrogative Form

For the most part, the interrogative form of the present perfect continuous tense uses a question word and inverts the subject and has/have. There is a very common exception to this that you’ll see below under the irregular verbs, we’ll get back to this later! 

Question + have/has + subject + (not) been + verb + ing

You’ll see both positive and negative formats in the examples below. 


Some Examples: 

  • Where have I been sleeping these past few days? 
  • Why have you been reading in your car? 
  • Who has she been talking to on the phone? 
  • How have they not been waking up at 6 am during the summer months? 
  • What have we not been doing to our best this month? 


Irregular Verbs

The most common question with this tense is what happens when you have to use “has” or “have” as the verb. This is an example of a mixed verb, which has both normal and non-continuous traits. In the subject of the present perfect continuous tense, “to have” acts as a non-continuous verb. 

“He has been having problems” is not correct. You would write it as “He has had problems”.

For the negative form, it is written as “He has not had problems”, and the interrogative form is written as “Has he had problems?”. 

Although very rare, the passive form of the present perfect continuous tense is quite a tough one to get your head around. We don’t use it that much in conversations, but it’s a fun one to leave you with! Look at our example below: 

  • Recently, Sarah has been drawing pictures. (Active)
  • Recently, pictures have been being drawn by Sarah. (Passive)

Girl Drawing

We hope you feel a little better about the present perfect continuous tense and are looking forward to learning about the rest of them! Keep an eye out on our Instagram and Facebook accounts to get the first look at our next blogs. All of our students get the first look at these articles too through our weekly readings! 


Related Blogs