The difference between the present perfect and the present perfect continuous can cause confusion for many learners of English.
Firstly of course, the grammatical form varies:
Present Perfect: Has/Have + Past Participle
e.g. He has passed his driving test
Present Perfect Continuous: Has/Have + Been + Present Participle
e.g. She has been reading a book
The broad rule is that although both tenses relate to the fact that something is being referred to in the past, the present perfect refers to something that has finished, but the present perfect continuous refers to something that is continuing in the present.
However, although this is sometimes the case, there are more variations.
On this page we'll highlight some of the main ways in which you would choose one over the other.
In some cases we can choose either of the tenses. This is usually the case when we are referring to biographical type facts about someone's life, often with the words for and since or some other time frame.
These facts in the examples above tend to be long-term. However, we tend to use the present perfect continuous to emphasise the fact that an event or activity has been happening over a period of time that is relatively short-term.
Compare the long-term, which could be either present perfect or present perfect continuous:
However, if we want show the fact that we've actually been playing (we could have just stopped or still be playing), then we use the continuous:
Another difference between the present perfect and the present perfect continuous is when we want to show whether something is completed or not. The continuous tense shows that it is not completed.
This is similar to the previous one, but it shows the continuous form can be used to show that something is repeated:
State verbs are those that represent a state of mind, such as thinking, knowing, wanting, seeing etc.
Though there are some we can use in the present perfect continuous tenses, generally most are cannot be used in the continuous tense and so they are only used with the present perfect:
For instance, we don't say this:
We would say:
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