A. Study these example situations:
Ann’s clothes are covered in paint. She has been painting the ceiling.
Has been painting is the present perfect continious
We are interested in the activity. It does not matter whether something has been finished or not. In this example, the activity (painting the ceiling) has not been finished.
The ceiling was white. Now it is blue. She has painted the ceiling.
Has painted is the present perfect simple.
Here, the important thing is that something has been finished. ‘Has painted’ is a completed action. We are interested in the result of the activity (the painted ceiling), not in the activity itself.
Compare these examples:
- My hands are very dirty. I’ve been repairing the car.
- She’s been smoking too much recently. She should smoke less.
- It’s nice to see you again. What have you been doing since we last met?
- Where have you been? Have you been playing tennis?
- The car is OK again now. I’ve repaired it.
- Somebody has smoked all my cigarettes. The packet is empty.
- Where’s the book I gave you? What have you done with it?
- Have you ever played tennis?
We use the continuous to ask or say how long (for an activity that is still happening)
- How long have you been reading that book?
- Mary is still writing letters. She’s been writing letters all day.
- They’ve been playing tennis since 2 o’clock.
We use the simple to ask or say how much, how many or how many times (completed actions):
- How many pages of that book have you read?
- Mary has written ten letters today.
- They’ve played tennis three times this week.
C. There are some verbs (for example, know/like/believe) that are normally not used in the continuous:
I’ve known about it for a long time. [not ‘I’ve been knowing’)
1 Read the situations and write two sentences using the words in brackets.
Tom started reading a book two hours ago. He is still reading it and now he is on page 53.
- (read / for two hours)He has been reading for two hours
- (read / 53 pages so far) _He has read. 55 pages so far
Linda is from Australia. She is travelling round Europe at the moment. She began her tour three months ago.
- (travel / for three months) She____________________________________________________________
- (visit / six countries so far) ______________________________________________________________
Jimmy began playing tennis when he was ten years old. This year he is national champion again — for the fourth time.
- (win / the national championship four times) _____________________________________________
- (play / tennis since he was ten)___________________________________________________________
When they left college, Mary and Sue started making films together. They still make films.
- (make / ten films since they left college) They _____________________________________________
- (make / films since they left college) ______________________________________________________
2 For each situation, ask a question using the words in brackets.
- You have a friend who is learning Arabic. You ask:
- (how long / learn / Arabic?) How long have you been learning Arabic?
- You have just arrived to meet a friend. She is waiting for you. You ask:
- (how long / wait?) _____________________________________________________________________
- You see somebody fishing by the river. You ask:
- (how many fish / catch?) ________________________________________________________________
- Some friends of yours are having a party next week. You ask:
- (how many people / invite?) _____________________________________________________________
- A friend of yours is a teacher. You ask:
- (how long / teach?)____________________________________________________________________
- You meet somebody who is a writer. You ask:
- (how many books / write?) ______________________________________________________________
- (how long / write / books?) ______________________________________________________________
- A friend of yours is saving money to go on holiday. You ask:
- (how long / save?)______________________________________________________________________
- (how much money / save?) ______________________________________________________________
3 Put the verb into the more suitable form, present perfect simple (I have done etc.) or continuous (I have been doing etc.).
- Where have you been? _Have you been playing. (you/play) tennis?
- Look! Somebody ______________________________________ (break) that window.
- You look tired. _____________________________________ (you/work) hard?
- ‘______________________________________ (you/ever/work) in a factory?’ ‘No, never.’
- ‘Jane is away on holiday.’ ‘Oh, is she? Where __________________________________ (she/go)?
- My brother is an actor. He ____________________________________ (appear) in several films.
- ‘Sorry I’m late.’ That’s all right. I__________________________________ (not/wait) long.’
- ‘Is it still raining?’ ‘No, it______________________________________ (stop).’
- I____________________ (lose) my address book___________________ (you/see) it anywhere?
- I______________________ (read) the book you lent me but I_________________(not/finish) it yet.
- I___________________________:___ (read) the book you lent me, so you can have it back