Sophie is working in Dubai but Amy was hoping she may be able to ask her a favour.

We use the present perfect simple (have/has + past participle) or present perfect continuous (have/has + been + -ing) to talk about a state or an activity that has a link to the present.

Oh, the present perfect! It’s quite tricky!

Well, no, it’s quite logical, but it does have different uses. We often use present perfect for talking about something which happened in the past which is important now.

My Chinese teacher has given me some homework. (= I have the homework to do now.)
I’ve forgotten. (= I can’t remember now.)
She’s broken her leg. (= Her leg is still broken now.)

We also use present perfect with just for talking about a recent action.

Oliver’s just made a cake.

So that’s important now because I could have some cake?

Yes, that could be the reason. But with just for recent actions we usually use present perfect, anyway.

OK, but why can’t I say ‘Ollie’s been making a cake’?

You could, but then the focus would be more on the action rather than the result. Maybe you are explaining why the kitchen is in a mess. We use the present perfect simple more when there is a result in the present (like the cake) and the present perfect continuous more when the action is important.

Umm, OK. So you would say ‘She’s been travelling a lot recently.’

Exactly. Because we’re more interested in the action than the result.

Is the present perfect only used for recent events?

No, not at all. We also use it for life experiences which happened at any time in the past. The person’s life, which continues in the present, is the link to the present.

She’s won an award.
Sophie has been to Berlin before.

So, she could have been to Berlin last month or ten years ago?

Exactly, we don’t know when and it isn’t important. If you wanted to say when, you would have to use the past simple: Sophie went to Berlin ten years ago.

We also use the present perfect for actions or states that are unfinished.

Your mum’s been writing her blog for years now, hasn’t she?

She is still writing the blog now, so the action isn’t complete.

Could I say ‘She’s written her blog for years’?

No. We usually use the present perfect continuous for talking about the length of time something goes on for, with phrases like for years, for a long time, etc.

What about using still, already and yet?

We use already to talk about something which has been done, and usually this is surprising to the speaker.

Wow, that was quick! You’ve finished your homework already.

Yet is mainly used in questions and negatives to talk about something which hasn’t happened, but which you thought would happen in the past and you expect to happen in the future.

I haven’t had time yet.
Have you seen
her new blog yet?

We use still to talk about something which is going on longer than you expect.

They’ve been doing things with that computer for ages, but they still haven’t fixed it.

OK, I feel like I’ve been understanding more about the present perfect today.

Oh, sorry, you can’t say ‘I’ve been understanding’. Do you remember when we looked at the present continuous? There are certain verbs, called state verbs, which we don’t usually use in the continuous form – verbs for talking about emotions, thinking, existing, appearing, possession and the senses.

Oh, yes. You gave me a list of them.

That’s right, they’re in the Grammar Snack on the present continuous.

Right, I’ll look at them again. Well, we’ve been talking for ages

For a few minutes!

Yes, but I’ve learned a lot.

Excellent – you used present perfect continuous with a length of time and present perfect simple with a result!



What have you been doing today?


JamesMR's picture
JamesMR 1 June, 2021 - 15:06

Please help. I read in my text book that we use the continuous when we emphasise the duration, but my book also uses ‘I had wanted to read the book for a while’ as an example of past perfect simple. Why is while used?

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JoModerator's picture
JoModerator 2 June, 2021 - 10:46

Hi JamesMR,

That's a good question!

Have a look at this grammar explanation of the past perfect:

It says 'We do not normally use the past perfect continuous with stative verbs. We use the past perfect simple instead'

Example: Up until that moment, I'd never believed (NOT been believing) in astrology.

Your grammar book is using the verb 'want' as a stative verb. You can read more about stative verbs here:


I hope that helps!

Best wishes

Jo (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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Cfvdv's picture
Cfvdv 6 April, 2021 - 17:08

Today I have been doing a walk around my house, for exercise. Then I came back home and now i´m doing my English.

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Didik's picture
Didik 1 April, 2021 - 17:11

Today I walkd with my 2 brothers, then I played some games in my computer, and now I am doing english.

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Arivelde's picture
Arivelde 1 April, 2021 - 01:43

Today I haven't done many things, I've just read a little bit, did some exercises with my brothers, and wached some Fottball games in the television, and for the past few minutes I've been doing some english.

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zagrybast's picture
zagrybast 7 August, 2020 - 10:40

Dear Jonathan! Can you help me please? I don’t understand present perfect. I don’t know when I need use Simple and when continuous. I read the rules under video, but I can’t understand why “We have known|'ve known (know) (but “have been knowing”) each other for years.“ ?

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JoModerator's picture
JoModerator 8 August, 2020 - 08:27

Hi zagrybast,

Jonathon isn't here today, so I'm going to answer your question...

There is a group of verbs which are called state verbs which we use for states (not actions) and we don't usually use these in the continuous form.
want - need - like - love - hate - prefer - believe - think - know - realise - understand - recognise - suppose - be - exist - appear - look - seem - belong - have (for possession) -  own - feel - smell - taste
That's why we say 'we've known each other for years' and not 'we have been knowing each other for years'.
If you want to read more about the present perfect continuous, you could have a look at this page from Cambridge dictionary:
I hope that helps!
Best wishes
Jo (LearnEnglish Teens team)
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gio_cra2004's picture
gio_cra2004 24 March, 2020 - 13:54

I have been doing a science human video lessons and I have been cooking a crepes. It's very good!

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mart__'s picture
mart__ 24 March, 2020 - 13:48

Today I woke up, I had breakfast at 9:00 and at middley I did the video lessons and now I'm doing my homework

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anna_v3r's picture
anna_v3r 24 March, 2020 - 12:08

Since this day hasn't finished yet, I'm going to talk about what I have been doing this morning. I've studied grammar and human sciences, then I've had lunch.

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Srilal's picture
Srilal 15 August, 2017 - 16:20

Dear Sir
Would you explain this to me please?
So,she could have been to Berlin?
Is the question at the end of the sentence correct or a full stop?
Is it alright to use a question mark depending on the way a person speaks. eg. He is your brother? so young I thought he is your nephew.

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