What's new

The difference between present perfect & present perfect continuous


10 Dec 2002
A few questions are spouting out.
My brain is now overflowed completely over the difference between present perfect and present perfect continuous in the following exercises.
I will be glad if somebody can drop me a clue about this pretty confusing difference.:)

1. from the drill: correct it if the underlined verb is wrong.

A: 'Do you still smoke?'
B: 'No, I gave it up. I don't smoke for years.'

I corrected it to: 'I haven't been smoking for years.'
but the answer is:'I haven't smoked for years.'

Why can not I use the present perfect continuous?
If it's wrong, what is the difference in the meanings?

2. one more: complete B's answer to A's question.

A: Sue lives in London, doesn't she?
B: Yes, she ___________ in London for the last few years.

The answer to the drill is: 'she has been living'.
Is it allowable to answer 'she has lived' also?
If not, why?

For the smoking one, both are correct and (to me at least) it is correct and acceptable.
It's things like this is what makes English kind of difficult to learn.
There aren't really much difference.

For the second... both are correct also.

I think the small difference is that words that end with -ed is more stressed on something past tense while been stresses on something that's happening to the word that follows, like been smoking. It means that you could still be smoking now, just that the cigarette (or whatever...) is not in your mouth, but most of the time, it also means something that happened/past tense.

Also, for the second one, when you say she has lived, it can sound like she does not live there anymore, but it also mean she does still live there.
Yeah it's quite confusing. :p

These all practically mean the same thing. *lol* Makes me wonder how I actaully know English.

I had slept (for 8 hours)
I have slept (for 8 hours)
I slept (for 8 hours)
I was sleeping (for 8 hours)
I had been sleeping (for 8 hours)
I have been sleeping (for 8 hours)
The main difference is that the PP continuous is used to talk more about the "subject" (shuugo) (the person or activity done by this person), while the PP simple is used to talk about the "object" (mokutekigo).

For example :
PP continuous => My hands are dirty. I've been repairing the car. (=>the important is "me" and the fact that "I" have been reparing the car. It doesn't matter whether the car is working or not now).

PP simple => The car is working now. I've repaired it. ("it/the car" is more important than "I". It's not so important who repaired it. The point is that it is working now).

With questions there are other rules.

With "How much/many/many times" => always PP simple
With "How long" => it depends if the action is finished or not.

How long have you been studying English ? (you are still studying now)
How long have you studied English in Highschool (you are not in highschool anymore, so finished, but still about experience)

compare with : "How long did you study English yesterday ?" (not about experience and yesterday is completely finished)

One more thing. The difference between Present perfect (I have done) and past simple (I did) is not so clear cut in US English as in other Englishes, which makes it even more confusing.

For instance, "I've lost my key" in British English means I don't have it now (100% sure). If you say "I lost my key", I could understand that you first lost it a month ago then found it and now have it. For Americans, there is no difference between these 2 sentences.
well this question is a bit difficult to answer with a rule because there is no special rule for that. for example maciamo san said that if we are insisting on the subject we use the pp cont but i think that in the example of the car we still can say <i have been repairing the car> insisting on the fact that the car is working now .
i think that it is a matter of insisting or emphsizing on the action ...i mean if you want to make the listener feel that the action took a lot of time or power in your concideration you can use the pp cont (as well as the fact that you can use it to talk about an action that begun in the past and still in process)
but the problem is that some people say that such or such form "sounds" better when used in a given context :mad:

well language is a big sea and we are just seagulls which want to get the best fish out of it but it is very difficult (hi hi hi ) :p
The explanation I have given are not a matter of "sounds better". That's what is explained in the Cambridge Grammar book I use to teach.
Thanks a lot for the valuable expositions, all professors.
Well, please allow me to ask some more.🙂

I had slept (for 8 hours)
I have slept (for 8 hours)
I slept (for 8 hours)
I was sleeping (for 8 hours)
I had been sleeping (for 8 hours)
this is also pretty confusing...I have thought that at least 'had been' has to be put aside for something which happened before certain past event.
for ex. in the above sentence of mine, it's also allowable to use: had thought, had been thinking, though, was thinking, even if there is a possibility I still think so?

>professor Maciamo
what a coincidence! I'm also using the Cambridge Grammar book. ;)
thanks to you guys' explanation, I found out that even the answers are sticking to teach unit's theme

>professor the-deer
well language is a big sea and we are just seagulls that want to get the best fish out of it but it isn't easy (hi hi hi )
no doubt. moreover, I have to cultivate more the fishes that should be caught. :mad:

I'm happy I can talk to you like this, even a little. Studying more, I hope to be able to communicate with you guys more than now.😄
In short :

I had slept (for 8 hours) => until one point in the past (last Saturday, when something else happened)
I have slept (for 8 hours) => until now or recently, today, or any unfinished period of time (this week, this year...)
I slept (for 8 hours) = yesterday, last week, last Sunday, or any finished period of time.
I was sleeping (for 8 hours) => unusual with "sleep"; "was doing" is at one particular moment in the past (eg. yesterday at 8pm I was having dinner)
I had been sleeping (for 8 hours) => till one point in the past (implied that you had just woken up or something)
Originally posted by Maciamo
The explanation I have given are not a matter of "sounds better". That's what is explained in the Cambridge Grammar book I use to teach.

i am just speaking in general and not about you because if you ask some native speakers about the use of two or more similar expressions that have to a big extent similar functions or meanings they will resort as a final solution to that expression (i mean <it sounds better>) to tell the appropriate use but from the perspective of a non native speaker the subject is different because we as non native speakers get the rules from teachers or grammar books whereas the native speakers get it by direct exposition to language or by uncousiously so they dont get the language by rules or at least they get the magor part of it "rules-free"
i think that is a very difficult subject and a very interesting one to speak about and i would like to read your view maciamo san 👍
Sorry, if this is posted, I just skimmed thru the thread.

Shouldn't 1b be haven't? I haven't smoked for years. (I have not smoked for years makes more sense than I do no smoke for years)

2B should be she's been living. She's been living in London for the pas 2 years.
Thanks a lot for all your guys' help.🙂
I realized it's an issue like 'Narau yori narero'. :p
Top Bottom