Present Perfect Simple vs Present Perfect Continuous – What’s the Difference?

The difference between the Present Perfect Simple and the Present Perfect Continuous is that in the Present Perfect Simple we often focus on the result and in the Continuous form we focus on the action.

Let’s look at some examples:

I have painted the room. (focus is on the result, the action is finished)

I have been painting the room all day. ( focus on the action, you are probably tired and not finished.

I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. (It is finished and you want to focus on the achievement.)

I have been climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for my whole life. (This is a regular event in your life and you will climb the mountain again.)

The Present Perfect Simple and Continuous can sometimes have the same meaning.

With some verbs, there is no difference in meaning. We can use either and they both mean that the situation is unfinished. This is true especially with the verbs “To Work”,  “To Study”, and “To Live”

Examples:

I have lived in London since 2004

I have been living in London since 2004.

I have studied French since I was a child.

I have been studying French since I was a child.

I have worked here for 2 years.

I have been working here for 2 years.

When not to use the Present Perfect Continuous

We don’t use the Present Perfect Continuous tense when we use stative verbs. Stative verbs just mean that there is no action. We often use the Present Perfect Continuous to focus on the action so in this case, it is better to use the Present Perfect Simple.

Examples:

I have known Peter for 6 years.

I have been knowing Peter for 6 years.

I have liked Bob Dylan since I was 16.

I have been liking Bob Dylan since I was 16.

When to use the Present Perfect Simple

1. When the situation is more permanent

I have lived with my parents for 5 years.

I have been living with my parents.

In the first example, you really mean that you have lived there for a while and you have no plans to move. In the second example, you might want to say that this is just a temporary situation.

2. When we want to emphasize the result and how that affects the present

I have cleaned the car.

We often use the present perfect simple to show that the action is finished and we don’t have to do this action anymore. This is why there is a connection with the present and we don’t use the past simple. It affects the present because that task is finished.

3. When we use “How much?” or “How many?”

How many of those cakes have you eaten?

 I have seen Star Wars 6 times. 

We use the present perfect simple for this type of sentence and the answer. 

When to use the Present Perfect Continuous

1.The present perfect continuous is used to show something is temporary.

I have been going to the gym a lot recently

In this case, there is a change and probably you weren’t going to the gym a lot before or you don’t intend to go a lot in the future. 

2.The present perfect continuous can be used to emphasize the length of time.

Please! Can you cook dinner? I have been working hard all day!

In this example, you want to say that you had a long day and work and you are tired. You want to emphasize this time at work.

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