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Present Perfect Continuous Tense: Definition, Structure, and Usage

The present perfect continuous (or progressive) tense shows an ongoing action or activity while also emphasizing its duration.

A present perfect continuous verb uses the auxiliary verbs “have” or “has,” followed by “been,” and the present participle (or -ing form) of the main verb.

For example:

  • I have been reading that book for three months. 

How Do You Form the Present Perfect Continuous Tense?

The present perfect continuous tense describes an ongoing activity that started in the past and may still be continuing. To form this tense, use the combination of “has/have been” followed by the main verb in its present participle (-ing) form.

The Present Perfect Continuous Tense Formula

The standard or affirmative form of the present perfect continuous tense can be described as: 

  • Subject + has/have + been + present participle (-ing form)

For example:

  • The kindergarten classes have been raising a rabbit since November.

While it’s possible to use the present perfect continuous tense in the passive voice, it often results in sentences that sound unnatural or overly complex.

The formula for the passive present perfect continuous tense is:

  • Subject + has/have + been + being + present participle form

For example:

  • The students have been being taught by the teacher.

However, “have been being taught” is an unnatural combination of verbs. Although it’s grammatically correct, it can sound strange and confusing.

 Instead, it should be written in the positive form to avoid confusion and wordiness:

  • The teacher has been teaching the students since yesterday.

The Present Perfect Continuous Tense Question Formula

You can also create questions using the present perfect continuous tense. In questions, the order of the subject and auxiliary verb changes, but the main verb stays in its present participle (-ing) form.

The formula for the interrogative present perfect continuous tense is:

  • Have/has + subject + been + present participle form

For example: 

  • Have you been eating healthily since your surgery?
  • How many times has that car been circling the park since you arrived?

The Present Perfect Continuous Tense Negative Formula

For negative statements in the present perfect continuous tense, the word “not” is added after the auxiliary verbs “has” or “have.”

The formula for the negative present perfect continuous sentence is:

  • Subject + has/have + not + been + present participle form 

For example:

  • I have not been opening my social media accounts since last weekend.

What Are the Uses of the Present Perfect Continuous Tense?

The present perfect continuous tense is used to describe actions or situations that started in the past and have continued up to the present. It highlights how an action keeps going, rather than its end, making it different from the present perfect simple tense.

Key uses of the present perfect continuous tense include:

  1. Describing Ongoing Actions from the Past to the Present: This tense is especially useful for highlighting the duration or continuity of the action.

For example:

  • I’ve been waiting for the bus for hours.
  • Laurie has been gardening since she was ten years old.
  1. Asking about Duration: A common use is to ask “how long?” questions, often accompanied by words or phrases that show duration, like “for” or “since.”

For example:

  • How long have you been studying French?
  • Has he been working at that company since graduation?

Remember, the present perfect continuous tense focuses on the activity and its duration, whereas the present perfect simple might focus more on the result of that activity.