Present Perfect Simple or Present Perfect Progressive

Introduction

The present perfect simple and the present perfect progressive are both present tenses. They express an action that started in the past and may be either ongoing or just completed. The present perfect simple is used with action verbs to expresse a recently completed action, we use it to stress how much/how many times something has happened. The present perfect progressive is used to talk about ongoing actions that started in the past and are not yet completed, we use it to emphasise how long something has been going on.

Learn the difference between the present perfect simple and the present perfect progressive in English grammar with Lingolia’s tense comparison charts. Then test yourself in the exercises.

Example

I am a receptionist at a nice little hotel next to my house. I’ve been working here since 2010 and I’ve welcomed many tourists.

Today I’ve been very busy. I have been writing e-mails all day. I’ve already written ten e-mails. Now I’m hungry – I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.

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Usage

The chart below provides an overview of the differences between the English present perfect simple and present perfect progressive tenses.

Present Perfect SimplePresent Perfect Progressive

result (what, how many/much, how often)

Example:
I have welcomed many tourists.
I have written ten e-mails today.

duration (how long, since when)

Example:
I have been working here since 2010.
I have been writing e-mails all day.

negative: not since the last occurrence

Example:
I haven’t eaten anything all day.

negative: not since the beginning of the action

Example:
I have not been eating all day.

Signal Words

Signal words can help us to recognise which tense to use in a sentence. Below is a list of signal words for the present perfect simple and present perfect progressive tenses.

Present Perfect SimplePresent Perfect Progressive
  • how often
  • … times
  • how long
  • since
  • for

Info

We can usually use either Present Perfect Progressive or Present Perfect Simple with the verbs live and work without changing the meaning.

Example:
I have been working/living here since 2010.
I have worked/lived here since 2010.

Verbs that are not used in the progressive form

The following verbs are not generally used in a progressive form.

  • stative verbs
    be*, cost, fit, mean, remain, suit
    Example:
    The tourists have remained in the hotel.
  • verbs that indicate possession/belonging
    belong, have*

    Example:
    One tourist has had a headache for two days.
  • verbs of sensory perception
    feel, hear, see*, smell, taste, touch
    Example:
    I haven’t heard the telephone ring.
  • verbs that express feelings
    hate, hope, like, love, prefer, regret, want, wish
    Example:
    None of the tourists has regretted staying in our hotel.
  • verbs of thought and recognition
    believe, know, realise, recognise, seem, think, understand
    Example:
    Have you thought about it?

*exceptions

Some stative verbs also have a progressive form, but the meaning of the progressive form is sightly different.

stative formprogressive form
verbmeaningexamplemeaningexample
be state He’s been happy ever since he started working at the hotel. deliberate behaviour She’s been being silly all morning.
have possession The hotel has had a pool for 2 years. in particular expressions He’s been having fun with tourists for years.

see

sight I’ve seen a lot of hotels. be together with somebody Nigel and Beatrice have been seeing each other for two years.

Conjugation

For information on the conjugation of these two tenses, see: