Present Perfect Progressive – Verb Meaning and Use

present-perfect-cont GraphcThis post will show you how to use the Present Perfect Progressive. To see how to form the Present Perfect Progressive, click here.

The Present Perfect Progressive, also called the Present Perfect Continuous, is used with continuing activities. We often use since and for with this verb tense.

  • My English has been improving lately.
  • have been living in Vancouver for six months.
  • They have been studying English since January.
  • It has been raining since Monday.
  • She has not (hasn’tbeen exercising since she hurt her back.
  • How long have you been going to the new Conversation Club for?
  • Who have you been talking to for hours?

.

The Present Perfect Progressive is also used for activities that were in progress, but have just ended.

  • It’s finally done! I’ve been writing this essay all month!
  • He has been working all day so he is very tired.
  • You have been sleeping for ten hours!

.

We also use the Present Perfect Progressive to make excuses with an apology.

  • I’m sorry I haven’t called you, I haven’t been feeling well lately.
  • I’m sorry I didn’t go grocery shopping, I have been working too much these days.

.

Some common verbs can be used in the Present Perfect or the Present Perfect Progressive with no difference in meaning. Some of these verbs are live, teach, wear, work, study, stay, and feel.

  • Mr. Rodriguez has lived here since 2010.
  • Mr. Rodriguez has been living here for three years.
  • He has taught Spanish for a long time.
  • He has been teaching Spanish for a long time.
  • He has worn the same jacket for years.
  • He has been wearing the same jacket for years.

.

Sometimes, using the Progressive tense can show a more intense feeling.

  • I’ve waited for an hour.
  • I’ve been waiting for an hour. (I am very annoyed)
  •  I’ve thought about this for days.
  • I’ve been thinking about this for days. (I can’t stop thinking about it)

.

While the Present Perfect can express a completed activity that may or may not have been recent, the Present Perfect Progressive shows that an activity is continuing up to the present time, or was very recently completed.

  • I’ve read a book about psychology. (I finished it at some indefinite time in the past)
  • I’ve been reading a book about psychology. (I’m not finished. Or I’ve just finished it)

.

Usually, we do not use the Present Perfect Continuous when we say how many times an activity has been repeated.

✔ I’ve watered the garden three times.

✘ I’ve been watering the garden three times.

Advertisements

Present Perfect – Verb Forms

present_perfect GraphicThis post will show you how to form the Present Perfect. To see how to use the Present Perfect, click here.

The Present Perfect is formed with two words; the auxiliary “have or has”, and a verb in its “past participle” form.

The Past Participle of regular verbs is formed by adding -ed to the base verb and it looks just like the Past Simple form of that verb. Work, worked, worked – Base Verb, Past Simple, and Past Participle.  The Past Participle of irregular verbs must be memorized.

Occasionally, a few verbs change their spelling in the Past Participle form, for example study becomes studied.

Affirmative Statements

Subject Have/Has Past Participle
I have (I’ve) travelled to France.
You have (you’ve) travelled around Europe.
He/she/it has (he’s/she’s/it’s) travelled through Russia.
We have (we’ve) travelled to Australia.
They/you (plural) have travelled to all seven continents.

.

Negative Statements

Subject Have/Has Not Past Participle
I have not (haven’t) forgotten his name.
You have not (haven’t) lost your mind.
He/she/it has not (hasn’t) been difficult.
We have not (haven’t) done much research.
They/you (plural) have not (haven’t) answered the questions.

.

Information Questions

Wh- Word Have/Has Subject Past Participle
Who has she talked to about the problem?
What have we done to the Earth?
When has she learned from a mistake?
Where have you been all my life?
How have I grown professionally?
How long have they been together?
Why has it taken so long?

.

Wh- Word + Have/Has Subject Past Participle
Who’s eaten lunch?
What’s been found on Mars?

Yes/No Questions

Have/Has Subject Past Participle
Have I finished yet?
Have you traveled to Argentina?
Has he/she/it stopped raining?
Have we improved our English?
Have they/you (plural) seen that movie?

.

Short Answers

Yes Subject + Be + Not
Yes, I am.
Yes, you are.
Yes, he/she/it is.
Yes, we are.
Yes, they/you (plural) are.
No Subject + Be + Not
No, I’m not.
No, you’re not.
No, he/she/it isn’t.
No, we aren’t.
No, they/you (plural) aren’t.

We do not use contraction with short affirmative answers.

✔ Yes, I am.

✘ Yes, I’m

✔ Yes, you are.

✘ Yes, you’re.

Can vs. Be Able To

There is often some confusion about can and be able to, so let’s see if I can clear that up a bit for you.

Can and be able to are often interchangeable and you can usually use either one without a difference in meaning.  But not always.

Can is a  modal auxiliary verb that expresses general ability in the Present tense, or could for general ability in the Past tense.

Be able to is not a modal auxiliary verb, it’s just the verb “be” + the adverb “able” + the infinitive “to”. 

.

Present Ability. We use both can and be able to, but can is much more common:

✔ James can speak three languages.

✔ James is able to speak three languages.

✔ Michelle can easily multitask.

✔ Michelle is able to easily multitask.

.

Future Ability. We only use will be able to to talk about a future skill or ability that you don’t have yetbut you will have in the future. We never use can for an ability that you will only have in the future:

✔ When I finish training I will be able to run a 5 minute mile.

✘ When I finish training I can run a 5 minute mile.

✔ I will be able to see better when I get new glasses.

✘ I can see better when I get new glasses.

We use either can or be able to when we are talking about decisions and future arrangements:

✔ The doctor can see you next Monday.

✔ The doctor is able to see you next Monday.

✔ I’m busy now, but I can help you in an hour.

✔ I’m busy now, but I’ll be able to help you in an hour.

✔ Mom can drive you to school tomorrow.

✔ Mom is able to drive you to school tomorrow.

.

Past Ability.  We use could or was/were able to to talk about an ability that existed for a long time in the past, but which isn’t true now:

✔ When I was young, I was able to eat like a pig and not get fat.

✔ When I was young, I could eat like a pig and not get fat.

✔ When I was a teenager, I could stay up all night without getting tired.

✔ When I was a teenager, I was able to stay up all night without getting tired.

We only use was/were able to with action verbs to talk about an ability related to a single event:

✔ We were able to go sailing yesterday because the weather was so nice.

✘ We could go sailing yesterday because the weather was so nice.

✔ I was able to file my taxes online this year.

✘ I could file my taxes online this year.

✔ Yesterday we were able to get tickets for the concert.

✘ Yesterday we could get tickets for the concert.

But we use either can or was/were able to with some stative verbs (see, hear, feel, taste) to talk about an ability related to a single event:

✔ Were you able to see the fireworks from your balcony last night?

✔ Could you see the fireworks from your balcony last night?

✔ I was able to taste the salt in her cooking.

✔ I could taste the salt in her cooking.

✔ Because I was sitting in the front row, I was able to hear the teacher clearly.

✔ Because I was sitting in the front row, I could hear the teacher clearly.

We use couldn’t or wasn’t/weren’t able to for negative statements for both single events and a long period of time:

✔ Yesterday he wasn’t able to finish his dinner.

✔ Yesterday he couldn’t finish his dinner.

✔ I wasn’t able to swim when I was younger.

✔ I couldn’t swim when I was younger.

✔ We weren’t able to get tickets for the concert.

✔ We couldn’t get tickets for the concert.

.

Here is a visual chart to help you out:

Can/Could (affirmative) Cannot/Can’t/Couldn’t Be Able To (affirmative) Be Able To (negative)
Past Ability She could read when she was five. She couldn’t read when she was five. She was able to read when she was five. She wasn’t able to read when she was five.
Past Repeated Actions When they were young, they could run marathons. When they were young, they couldn’t run marathons. When they were young, they were able to run marathons. When they were young, they weren’t able to run marathons.
Past, Single Action, Stative Verb I could feel the wind in my hair. I couldn’t feel the wind in my hair. I was able to feel the wind in my hair. I wasn’t able to feel the wind in my hair.
Past, Single Action, Action Verb NOT POSSIBLE!! I couldn’t get tickets for the concert. I was able to get tickets for the concert. I wasn’t able to get tickets for the concert.
Present Ability They can speak Italian. They can’t speak Italian. They are able to speak Italian. They aren’t able to speak Italian.
Future Ability or Skill NOT POSSIBLE!! When we pass our driver’s exam, we will be able to drive a car.
Future Decisions and Arrangements The dentist can see you tomorrow morning. The dentist can’t see you tomorrow morning. The dentist will be able to see you tomorrow morning. The dentist won’t be able to see you tomorrow morning.