Explained: Present Perfect Simple vs. Present Perfect Continuous

In this video you’re going to learn about the main differences between the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous, also known as the present perfect progressive. We focus on the function and uses of these two similar forms of the present perfect and what situations (or contexts) it is appropriate to use the simple instead of the continuous form, and vice versa. We’ll also show you how sometimes it doesn’t matter because both forms work just fine! By the end of this video you will have learnt an ESSENTIAL rule of use that you can apply to any other tense that has a continuous and a simple form. We also look at stative verbs and how we use them with the present perfect and we finish the video with a funny joke based on the difference between American and British English in the pronunciation of the past participle ‘been’.


Tom, have you sent me that marketing report yet?

Not yet, Jay. No.

But that’s a priority. I’ve asked you for that three times already. What have you been working on?

Well, last night I was listening to a fascinating podcast. This psychologist said that to optimize my productivity at work, I need to understand exactly who I am as a person.

Okay, and…?

So I’ve been running some tests on myself, and I’ve realized something very surprising.

Right. And how does that optimize your productivity?

Yes. Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out all morning. 

Fine, then tell me your results and we’ll analyze the data and we’ll adapt it to your work routine. We’ve been wanting to get more out of you ever since you began.

Okay, well, I’ve learned that my spirit animal is an armadillo, my next lover will be a princess called Ashanti And if I were a soup, I’d be carrot and coriander.


We use both the simple and continuous forms of the present perfect to connect past  actions with the present. 

But how are they different? And when should we use them?

The most important difference is that the present perfect simple focuses on the result of an action, while the present perfect continuous focuses on the doing of the action itself. My boss wants to know if the task is completed. 

But besides that, in contrast, Tom’s boss also wants to know how Tom has been spending his time. The boss is more interested in the action that has been in progress and less interested in the completed task, the marketing report.

You know that all sounds very familiar. Have we heard this explanation before?

Yes, we have. This change of focus from the result of the action to the doing of the action also exists between the past simple and the past continuous and the past perfect simple with the past perfect continuous.

Look at this past continuous sentence. You’re focusing attention on the action, listening happening over a period of time. Last night. Now compare it with this past simple sentence.

Both sentences communicate more or less the same information but the focus this time is on the completion of the action.

Now, in that example, it doesn’t sound like it matters much which tense you choose. 

That’s right. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. The simple or the continuous form both work just fine, but at other times only one form sounds right. 

If you ask our viewers, for example, have you subscribed to this channel? It makes sense because it’s a quick action that produces an instant result. Now, ask the same question in the present perfect continuous. It just doesn’t sound right because the action subscribing in this case is the simple click of a button. It’s not an activity that takes a considerable amount of time. 

So is that another characteristic of the present perfect continuous? We use it to focus on how long something has been taking.

Yes, that’s right. And in contrast to time taken, we use the present perfect simple to talk about how much or how many times an action has happened. Stative verbs are only used in the present perfect simple, and not the present perfect continuous.

What are stative verbs, Tom?

These are typically verbs of mental reasoning, the five human senses or verbs that indicate a relationship  between two objects. 

And I’ve realized something very surprising. 

There are two exceptions to this rule. The stative verbs mean and want. We can use them in both the present perfect simple or continuous form with no change of meaning.

Jay could also say…

And the same goes for mean.

To express an intention you can say I’ve meant to do something or I’ve been meaning to do something. They’re both correct.

And while we’re on the subject of verbs that are exceptional to normal rules, let’s look at live, work and drive. These verbs don’t change their meaning when you use them in their simple or their continuous forms.

I’ve lived here for ten years. I’ve worked here for ten years. I’ve driven this car for ten years.

Now, listen again.

I’ve been living here for ten years. I’ve been working here for ten years. I’ve been driving this car for ten years.

There’s no difference in meaning. But did you notice any difference in attitude?  When we use the present perfect continuous it sounds a little bit more emphatic. The focus on the time spent doing the activity communicates stronger feelings or a closer sense of attachment between the person speaking and the object they are talking about.

And finally, a tip about pronunciation. There’s an interesting British and American difference.

Been can be pronounced in two different ways. in British English. Been like the seed of a plant that we eat bean. So I’ve been running some tests on myself or bin like the container you put your rubbish in. So I’ve been running some tests on myself.

Americans only pronounce it as bin. But Tom, also Americans don’t put their trash in a bin. They put it in a wastebasket or a trash container like a garbage can. But never a bin. Just saying.

Yes. Hello? Where’s your bin? A what? Where’s your bin? I’ve been working. No, where’s your dustbin? I’ve just been working, man. Where’s your wheelie bin? Okay, I really been playing Pokemon.

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Bye now!

We hope this video was useful for you. But if you need a refresher on when to use the present perfect, simple, check out this. And if you want some help with just, yet and already, three words that often go together with the present perfect, then click here.

Thanks for watching. 



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