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4. The Present Perfect (Simple and Continuous) Used for Actions and Situations Continuing up to the Present

A. When we want to talk about actions or situations which started in the past and have continued up to the present, we often use the present perfect to show the connection between past and present.

B. The present perfect continuous is used especially for more temporary actions and situations; when we talk about more permanent situations, we prefer the present perfect simple.

I’ve been living in Sally’s flat for the last month.

My parents have lived in Bristol all their lives.

C. Study these examples:

a) You’ve been smoking too much recently. You should smoke less.

We are interested in the action. It does not matter whether something has been finished or not. In the example, the action has not been finished.

a) Somebody has smoked all my cigarettes. The packet is empty.

This time the important thing is that something has been finished. We are interested in the result of the action itself.

b) Ann has been writing letters all day.

We use the continuous form to say

how long something has been happening.

b) Ann has written ten letters today.

We use the simple form to say how much we have done, how many things we have done, or how many times we have done something.

D.Remember that a number of verbs are not normally used in the continuous form, but that some of these can be used in this form in certain cases.

I have never had such a beautiful ring.

but She has been having a bath for an hour.

I haven’t seen you for ages.

but Tom has just come from the airport. He’s been seeing off his mother.

In addition, the verb want is often used in the present perfect continuous, and wish is also possible:

Thank you so much for this perfume. I’ve been wanting it for ages.

The present perfect continuous tense does not exist in the passive. The nearest passive equivalent of a sentence such as They have been repairing the road would normally be The road has been repaired lately (present perfect passive), which is not exactly the same thing.

5. Special Structures in the Present Perfect

The present perfect tense is used after the following expressions:

This/that/it is the first/second/third, etc.......

This/that/it is the only...........

This/that/it is the best/finest/worst/most interesting, etc........


This is the first time I’ve really relaxed for months.

That’s the tenth beer you’ve drunk this evening.

This is the only party I’ve really enjoyed in my life.

It is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.

When we talk about the past, we use a past perfect tense.

It was the third time he had been in love that year.

But with the expression for the first time a present tense is possible.

This is the first time I’ve been here. I’m here for the first time.