Present Perfect Progressive Tense in English Grammar

Introduction

The present perfect progressive tense, also present perfect continuous, expresses an action that begins in the past and lasts until a present or almost present moment. The timing of this action is not specified, instead, the result or process of the action is emphasised. The present perfect progressive is conjugated with the present form of have, the past participle of be and the present participle or -ing form of the main verb.

Learn how to use and conjugate the present perfect progressive tense in English grammar. In the exercises, you can practise what you have learnt.

Example

Aaron has been repairing cars since he was sixteen years old. He has always wanted to be a mechanic.

He has been working in this garage for ten years.

As Aaron has been changing tyres all morning, his clothes are dirty now.

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Usage

The present perfect progressive is similar to the present perfect, but we use it to express a continuing or unfished action, or emphasise the duration of an action. Here are the three main uses of the present perfect continuous:

  • emphasise the duration, and not the result, of an action
    Example:
    Aaron has been repairing cars since he was sixteen years old.
  • express an action lasting from a point in the past until now, and possibly into the future (Since when?/How long?)
    Example:
    He has been working in this garage for ten years.
  • express completed actions with influence on the present
    Example:
    As he has been changing tyres all morning, his clothes are dirty now.influence on the present: his clothes are dirty now

Conjugation of English Present Perfect Progressive Tense

To conjugate the present perfect progressive we follow the rule: have/has + been + verb in the -ing form. The table below provides an overview of conjugations of the present perfect progressive in positive, negative and interrogative sentences.

positivenegativequestion
I/you/we/they I have been speaking I have not been speaking Have I been speaking?
he/she/it
he has been speaking he has not been speaking Has he been speaking?

Exceptions

The present participle is generally formed by adding -ing to the base form of a verb. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • An -e at the end of the word is removed, but -ee, -oe and -ye remain unchanged.
    Example:
    come – coming
    but: agree – agreeing
  • The final consonant is doubled in words that have a short stressed vowel before the final consonant. However, -w, -x and -y are not doubled.
    Example:
    sit – sitting
    but: mix – mixing
  • An -l as a final consonant after a vowel is always doubled in British English but not in American English.
    Example:
    travel – travelling (British)
    traveling (American)
  • An -ie at the end of the word is replaced with a -y
    Example:
    lie – lying

Contractions

Contractions are a combination of certain pronouns, verbs and the word not. They are mostly used in spoken and informal written English. The table below provides an overview of contractions in the present perfect progressive tense using the verb have.

long formcontractionexample
have …’ve they’ve
have not …’ve not/… haven’t I’ve not/I haven’t
has …’s she’s
has not …’s not/… hasn’t he’s not/he hasn’t

To Note

The contracted form of have is generally only used after pronouns.

Example:
They’ve been repairing cars in the morning.
(but not: The men’ve been repairing cars in the morning.)

However the contracted form of has is also possible after names and nouns, as long as they don’t already end in -s.

Example:
He’s/Aarons not been repairing cars in the morning.

Signal Words

Signal words can help us to recognise the tense in a sentence. The signal words for the present perfect progressive are:

  • all day, the whole week
  • for 4 years, since 1993, how long?
  • lately