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How to Use the Present Perfect Continuous Tense


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Learning to Use the Present Perfect Continuous Tense

I have been driving for 6 hours

The Present Perfect Continuous includes the function of the Present Continuous tense (focusing on and emphasising the time frame of an ongoing action), added with the function of the Present Perfect (looking at experience in unfinished time, with consequences in Present Time). In this sense, it allows you to communicate details about an ongoing action up to the present moment. From this sentence, we cannot tell if the action of driving is complete or not. You may intend to continue driving or you may have just finished your journey.  The time period is still open. If the action is complete, the consequence of the action is still active.  For example, I have been driving for six hours, suggests that either:

  • the person is still driving and the action is on-going: "I have been driving for 6 hours and I still have 100kms to go before we arrive."
  • the person has finished driving, but the consequence of the action is still relevant. "I have been driving for 6 hours and I am really tired."

(This contrasts with a Past Continuous usage of the same verb, I was driving for six hours, which communicates that the action is over and completed. There is no connection made between this action and current time.)

In Diagram 1, our Reference Point (R) is on the extended period of the driving and its relationship with current time. The speaker is speaking about a continuous action in Present time, which started in the Past.


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