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Understanding Present Perfect Continuous (Rules + Examples)

What is present perfect continuous? And how does it impact the way we write, read, and understand English? Understanding the different tenses in the English language facilitates better communication and conveys your message effectively.

What Is Present Perfect Continuous?

The present perfect continuous tense is a verb tense. Used to display that an action kick started back in the time and continues into the present moment of time, the tense relates to a timeframe.

The present perfect continuous mostly puts emphasis on the duration or the period that an act / action has been continuing over.

It is used in a sentence to imply that an action which had started in the recent past continues into the present. Consequently, from the past to the current time, there is a progression taking place.

Present perfect continuous infographic
Present perfect continuous infographic

What Are the Other Tenses?

*Tense* or *Tenses* is used characterize the verb in a given sentence. What the tense of the verb is, denotes the specific timeline in which the event took place.

The definition of *Tense* as per the Cambridge Dictionary is * any form of the verb which is used to display the state of an action, or the time of the particular action*.

The English language grammar has three key tenses, which are further classified into four different types of form, which total up to twelve types of tenses in all.

The Three Key Tenses

  • Past Tense
  • Present Tense
  • Future Tense

The Four Different Forms

  • Continuous tense form
  • Simple tense form
  • Perfect tense form
  • Perfect continuous tense form

Total Twelve Tenses

How Is It Different?

The present perfect continuous tense applies two auxiliary verbs simultaneously with the main verb. This is how it is different in its use from other tenses. While other tenses may convey their purpose as something that takes place at a particular time, the perfect continuous tense indicates a progression of time from the past to the present. This can be seen this in the way of its use with verbs. Consequently, this will apply to the way that sentences are structured as well.

The present perfect continuous tense is structured with *has / have + been + present participle*, the first auxiliary verb (has / have) is conjugated in present simple. The second auxiliary verb (be / been) is in the past participle. The main verb remains in present participle invariably.


  • I have (first auxiliary) been (second auxiliary) waiting (main verb) for one hour.
  • He has (first auxiliary) been (second auxiliary) talking (main verb) nonstop.
  • It has (first auxiliary) been (second auxiliary) snowing (main verb).
  • We have (first auxiliary) been (second auxiliary) playing (main verb) cricket.
Present simpleHelps to describe habits, facts, actions, and truth that are not affected by timeIst form of verb + s/esHe loves pizza.
Past simpleHelps to describe events that have happened in the pastIInd form of the verbShe wore a beautiful dress for the party.
Future simpleHelps to describe events that will happen in the futureWill/ shall + Ist form He will go to New York tomorrow.
Present perfectHelps to describe the relevance of past events in the present momentHas/ have + IIIrd form of the verbI have learned to ride a bike.
Past perfectHelps to describe events that happened prior to other events in the pastHad + IIIrd form of the verbShe had finished the paper before leaving the hall.
Future perfectHelps to describe events that will be completed between now and a specific point in the futureWill/ have + IIIrd form of the verbShe will have finished the book by tomorrow.
Present continuousHelps to describe ongoing actionsIs/ am/ are + Ist form + ing“She is reading a book.
Past continuousHelps to describe ongoing events of the past, mostly in relation to another eventWas/ were + Ist form + ingHe was driving to work when the accident happened. 
Future continuousHelps to describe future events that will/are expected to continue for a period of timeWill be + Ist form + ingI will be going to meet my grandparents tomorrow.
Present perfect continuousHelps to describe events that started in the past and will continue into the present Has/ have been + Ist form + ingShe has been writing a book for the past one year.
Past perfect continuousHelps to describe events that began, continued, and ended in the pastHad been + Ist form + ingI had been working in this company for ten years when I got the promotion. 
Future perfect continuousHelps to describe events that began in the past but will continue until a point in the futureWill/ shall have been + Ist form + ingI will have been doing business with her for one year.

How To Use the Present Perfect Continuous

The present perfect continuous or present perfect progressive tense displays something that got initiated previously but is being continued in the present. One is showing the time duration from when the activity began previously, and it is going on in the present. When using it in a sentence you can quantify the time gap or choose not to quantify the same.

This present prefect continuous is used in two different forms:

  • To show and quantify the duration of time from past till present.
  • To use it without quantifying the duration of the time.

Below the two uses of the tense are explained in further detail.

Duration Of Time from Past

Use the present perfect continuous tense to relate or express the time connect between past and present for an action. For instance, 10 minutes, for three weeks, since a year, etc., are all examples of time durations supported by the present perfect continue tense.


  • We have been playing for past couple of hours.
  • He has been with our company for last two decades.
  • Where have you both been for the past three hours?
  • Sheila has been learning at the college since July.
  • They have been sitting here for more than three hours.

Recently, Lately

It can also be used in sentences WITHOUT timelines or durations like for three weeks. When we connect the past with the present without defining the time duration/quantifying it, then we use words such as recently/lately. Recently and lately do not measure or quantify time but give a sense of the same.

It helps to give your audience some indication of the event or the action which took place previously but continuous into the present. This is a common way that the present perfect continuous tense is used in English.


  • Recently, Malcom has been exercising a lot more.
  • Tim has been reading too many books lately.
  • Has she been working too much lately?
  • Recently, I have taken up riding in my free time.
  • What has she been up to?
  • Recently, her house got burgled.

Grammar Rules for Present Perfect Continuous

The rules to follow for the present perfect continuous tense are simple enough. Following these rules when you speak or write ensures that you use the tense in the appropriate manner. Here are the key rules to follow while using the present perfect continuous tense:

Rule #1 – Use *has been* when you use singular subjects or singular forms of nouns. This holds true for singular forms of any noun or pronouns that stand for nouns too. E.g., Mary has been, the boat has been, he has been, it has been. Here are some sentences that show how this works:

  • Bob has been shopping since he won the lottery.
  • He has been working non-stop for the past few hours.
  • The book has been on that table for a while now.
  • Has he been working out lately? He looks very fit.
  • It has been raining since Tuesday.

Rule #2 – When using plural nouns or pronouns with this tense, use *have been*. This is true for the singular pronoun *I* as well. E.g., They have been, John and Lisa have been, we have been, etc. Here are some examples of how the tense is used in these ways:

  • I have been on the road for the past twelve hours.
  • They have been running the marathon for a few hours.
  • We have been eating at this restaurant since we moved here.
  • Lots of bad things have been happening since they arrived in this town.
  • Those films have been haunting me since my childhood.

More Rules

When using the present perfect continuous, rules can also be applied while using kinds of sentences like an affirmative sentence, a negative sentence, and an interrogative sentence:

  • Using the past perfect continuous in an affirmative sentence, use the main verb with *ing* and the auxiliary verbs such as *have been* or *has been*. Consequently, the structural rule to follow in an affirmative sentence is Noun + the auxiliary verb + the verb form adding *ing* + the object. Here are some examples of affirmative sentences using the present perfect continuous tense –
  • We have been toiling at the farm for the past one month.
  • Susan has been baking cakes since she was nine years old.
  • They have been making wine at the monastery since their youth.
  • The janitor has been working at that store for a year or so.
  • You may have been going there since you were a teenager.
  • If using the perfect present continuous tense in a negative sentence, the structure goes by this rule – Noun + has/have + not been + verb form with *ing* + the object. Examples of a negative sentence using the tense are given below.
  • I have not been conducting tuitions since I was ill.
  • Tom has not been singing since he lost his voice last winter.
  • Jan and Peter have been fighting since a year.
  • The children have not been playing since it has been raining for four hours.
  • You have not been a good boy since you were young, and now you are not a good man.
  • While using this tense with an interrogative sentence, which asks a question, the structural rule to follow is the auxiliary verb + the noun + the verb form with *ing* + the object. Examples are the mentioned below:
  • Has she been eating her dinner for four hours?
  • Have they been at school since this morning?
  • Has Tom been wearing that jacket for a week?

Examples of Present Perfect Continuous

Below are examples of the present perfect continuous tense.

  • My son has been watching television for the past couple of hours since he got back from the school.
  • The driver of the car has been stopping every one hour minutes to stretch his legs during our eleven hour drive from Washington DC to Detroit.
  • He has been sleeping for long and missing his evening supper.
  • Her company has been tracking her internet use.
  • For last three months, I have been reading Harry Potter books all day long.
  • I have been picking oranges from my orchard and eating them immediately!
  • Whenever my dog has been chasing the rat, I end up finding fur all over the place.
  • I can always tell when she has been watching too much television because her eyes turn red due to fatigue.
  • My aircraft has been circling over the airport for past 25 minutes because he is waiting in the queue to land.
  • Lately, my son has been practicing football rather than focusing on his studies.


  1. Present Perfect Continuous Tense | Grammarly
  2. Present Perfect Continuous Tense | ENGLISH PAGE
  3. 100 Present Perfect Continuous Examples | EnglishPost.org
  4. Present perfect simple and continuous | LearnEnglish (britishcouncil.org)

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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