Present Perfect Continuous

The Present Perfect Continuous (aka Present Perfect Progressive) tense can feel like a complicated one. The length of the name alone can be a rather daunting indicator of the complexity of this tense. But learners who have a firm grasp of the Present Perfect tense and of the Progressive/Continuous aspect can view this particular tense as somewhere between the former two, taking on the core aspects of both.

What to Expect

The Present Perfect Continuous tense is often taught by showing how its usage is different from the Present Perfect tense, or how it’s different from Present Continuous or Past Continuous.  We find it helps to do both of these at the same time.  Although it might seem like a handful, it actually uses the learners’ established knowledge as base upon which this new concept can be built.  Instead of showing a list of what’s different, let’s show how Present Perfect Continuous is the balance between two concepts that students should already know well.

But first, let’s see how the form is created by merging the Present Perfect form with the Continuous aspect.

Prerequisites

Learners should already be familiar with the following:

The Present Perfect tense is used to express how a verb is relevant to both the past and the present, usually with verbs that have begun in the past but remains important in the present.  This often applies to results, status, and experiences.  These same traits apply to the Present Perfect Continuous tense.

Go to the Present Perfect page for more.

Progressive/Continuous tenses are used to express verbs that are temporary and unfinished, whether they are active in the moment, or generally ongoing around the time in question.  This apply to the Present Perfect Continuous tense as well.

Go to the Progressive/Continuous page for more.

The Present Perfect Continuous form has three verb words in its verb string.  The first two words are helping verbs, and the third is the main verb.  Students should be familiar with HAVE and with BE, including when/how they are used and how they affect the words around them.

The Present Perfect Continuous tense often incorporates cause-and-effect scenarios, so students should be comfortable with that type of logic, and perhaps different ways that can be expressed.

Proficiency Level

Students at the B1 level are expected to know the Present Perfect Continuous tense. They’ll likely start learning it during the Intermediate level (or 4th out of 6).*

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next

Present Perfect

HAVE/HAS → perfect participle

verbs started in the past

focus on results

Continuous

BE  →  ______ING

longer verbs

unfinished verbs

Present Perfect Continuous

HAVE/HAS → BEEN → ______ING

longer verbs started in the past

focus on unfinished incidental results

Bonus Notes


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Adverbial Clauses

Since the Present Perfect Continuous often expresses a cause to explain a result, this tense is often used in Adverbial Clauses of condition or reason (or followed by a result clause)
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Verb Strings

Since the Present Perfect Continuous tense uses 2 auxiliary verbs plus the main verb, not to mention 'not' for negatives, it might be a good idea to review the construction of verb strings.
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