Present perfect continuous tense

Present perfect continuous tense

By Alena Lien, 

22 October 2020

Click below to expand each section. 


Affirmative sentences

[subject] + ["have/has be"] + [present participle of main verb]

Conjugations of "have been" and their contracted forms.

  • I have =          I've been

  • You have =    You've been

  • He has =        He's been

  • She has =      She's been

  • We have =    We've been

  • They have = They've been

  • It has =          It's been

It is possible to have the verb "have" as both the auxiliary and main verb.

  • "He's been having a difficult time at school."

  • "I've been looking everywhere for you."

Negative sentences

[subject] + ["have/has not been"] + [present participle of main verb]

"Have not" is contracted to "haven't," and "has not" is contracted to "hasn't."

  • "I haven't been feeling well lately."

  • "If he hasn't been working, then what has he been doing all day?"


["have/has"] + [subject] + ["been"] + [present participle of main verb]

[question word] + ["have/has"] + [subject] + ["been"] + [present participle of main verb]

Question words are:

  • Who

  • What

  • When

  • Why

  • Where

  • Which

  • How

  • "Has it been raining?"

  • "What have you been doing?"

It is possible to make negative questions even though their use is quite specific. The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. However, contracted forms are preferred in general.

Contracted form:

["haven't/hasn't"] + [subject] + ["been"] + [present participle of main verb]

[question words] + ["haven't/hasn't"] + [subject] + ["been"} + [present participle of main verb]

  • "Hasn't it been raining?

  • "What haven't you been doing?

Full form:

["have/has"] + [subject] + ["not been"] + [present participle of main verb]

[question word] + ["have/has"] + [subject] + ["not been"] + [present participle of main verb]

  • "Has it not been raining?"

  • "What have you not been doing?"

Dynamic vs Static verbs

When it comes to continuous tenses in general, they should be used with dynamic verbs, not stative verbs.

Dynamic verbs (or action verbs) indicate action or progress. Examples include "eat," "play," "work," and "sleep."

Stative verbs (or event verbs) is used to indicate a state or condition - that do not show qualities of change or progress. Examples include "believe," "love," "belong," and "know." These are typically not used in continuous tenses.

And then, there are verbs that are both dynamic and stative which can be used in the present continuous tense. Like "think," "be," "have," "see" and "taste."

Incorrect examples:

  • "He's been preferring the steak."

  • "I've been understanding English."

Having said that, it is also common for native speakers to use the present continuous with stative verbs even if it is grammatically incorrect. Quite often this is done to express exaggeration or emphasise their feelings.

Grammatically incorrect but idiomatic examples:

  • "I've been loving the music they've been working on!"

  • She's been hearing what he's saying but she wants to see action."


A way of looking at the present perfect continuous is by asking, "Until this point, what was happening?"

The timeline for the present perfect continuous tense is kind of a combination of both the present perfect and past continuous tenses. 

Events are often gradual developments or ongoing activities that started in the past and develops until the present time.



Although this tense can be used without a specific time, it is often used with words like "for" and "since," time expressions like "recently" and "lately," and "how long" to ask about duration.

The uses can be divided into ongoing and completed events.

Ongoing events

1.   To talk about ongoing activities.

  • "I've been reading a book about the history of Australia."

  • "We've been living in the same house for the past 20 years."

2.   To talk about habitual activities.

  • "She hasn't been eating much since she lost her job."

  • "How long have you been studying English?"

Completed events

3.   To talk about recently completed activities.

  • "He finally came out of his room. He's been playing games all day."

  • "I hope he likes it. They've been working on it for a month."

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