Present Perfect Continuous Tense: How and When to Use It

Present perfect continuous tense on a blackboard

In this article, we define and break down the usage of the present perfect continuous tense. For information and resources on all verb tenses, visit our main page on the 12 English Verb Tenses.

Forming the Present Perfect Continuous Tense (with Tables)

Quick Reference Table: The Present Perfect Continuous Tense in All Forms

KEY

Ving → Present Participle

Forms Verbs
+ Has/have + been + Ving

I have been working today.

? Has/have + subject + been + Ving

Have you been working for three hours?

Has/have + not + been + Ving

I have not been working.

The formula for writing the present perfect continuous tense is: has/have + been + present participle.

Examples:

  • I’ve been relaxing in the park after work lately.
  • He has been organizing his spreadsheet every day to become more efficient.
  • We’ve been going to dance lessons to prepare for the wedding.
  • They have been working on a project to reduce the amount of trash in the area.
  • Susan has been writing a new draft of the script.

Making It Negative

To make the present perfect continuous tense in negative form, use this formula: Has/Have + not + been + present participle.

Examples:

  • She hasn’t been practicing her pronunciation.
  • He has not been feeling well.
  • Julie has not been taking her dog to the park lately.

Asking a Question

When asking a question in the present perfect continuous tense, use the formula: Has/Have + subject + been + present participle.

Examples:

  • Have you been feeling well?
  • Has she been talking to her mother?
  • Have they been practicing their steps?

When To Use the Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Use #1

When describing an action that began in the past and has continued into the present (not completed) with a specified duration.

Examples:

  • He has been working in the garden for the past 30 minutes.
  • She has been typing her paper for the last hour.
  • Timmy has been standing in the corner for the past two hours.
  • Tom hasn’t been working since 9 a.m.!
  • Have you been standing there since 7?

Use #2

When describing an action that began in the past and has continued into the present (not completed) without a specified duration.

However, when using this tense without a specific duration, ‘lately’ or ‘recently’ are implied. When you review the examples, add those time indicators in your head either before or after the sentence to see how they make sense.

Examples:

  • I’ve been feeling down.
  • I haven’t been feeling like myself.
  • She has been running all over the place.
  • Have you been watching too much news?
  • Bart hasn’t been practicing his skateboarding skills.

When Not To Use It

Don’t use this tense with a non-continuous verb.

  • He has been being angry lately. – Incorrect
    • He has been angry lately. – Correct

That’s all you need to know for the present perfect continuous tense! Keep practicing and you will master this verb tense.

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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Author

  • Jake Pool

    Jake Pool worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade and left to pursue his career as a writer and ESL teacher. In his time at Magoosh, he's worked with hundreds of students and has created content that's informed—and hopefully inspired!—ESL students all across the globe. Jake records audio for his articles to help students with pronunciation and comprehension as he also works as a voice-over artist who has been featured in commercials and on audiobooks. You can read his posts on the Magoosh blog and see his other work on his portfolio page at jakepool.net. You can follow him on LinkedIn!

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