Present perfect continuous and simple (I have been doing and I have done)

Learn and practise the difference between the present perfect continuous and the present perfect simple in English.

A

present perfect continuous

present perfect continuous

B Compare these examples:

  • My hands are very dirty. I’ve been repairing my bike.
  • My bike is OK again now. I’ve repaired it. (= I’ve finished repairing it)
  • Joe has been eating too much recently. He should eat less.
  • Somebody has eaten all the chocolates. The box is empty.
  • It’s nice to see you again. What have you been doing since we last met?
  • Where’s the book I gave you? What have you done with it?
  • Where have you been? Have you been playing tennis?
  • Have you ever played tennis?
C

We use the continuous to say how long (for something that is still happening):

  • How long have you been reading that book?
  • Amy is writing emails. She’s been writing emails all morning.
  • They’ve been playing tennis since 2 o’clock.
  • I’m learning Arabic, but I haven’t been learning it very long.

We use the simple to say how much, how many or how many times (for completed actions):

  • How many pages of that book have you read?
  • Amy has sent lots of emails this morning.
  • They’ve played tennis three times this week.
  • I’m learning Arabic, but I haven’t learnt very much yet.
D Some verbs (for example, know) are not normally used in continuous forms (be + -ing):

  • I’ve known about the problem for a long time. (not I’ve been knowing)
  • How long have you had that camera? (not have you been having)

But note that you can use want and mean in the present perfect continuous (have/has been + -ing):

  • I’ve been meaning to phone Anna, but I keep forgetting.