The difference between present perfect simple and present perfect progressive

During my years of teaching I have always been asked this question. What is the difference between present perfect simple and present perfect progressive? In this lesson I want to share with you the differences. The most important thing to remember is time and not when the action was completed.

Present perfect simple

We use the present perfect simple when the time continues or the action has just finished resulting in NOW. I have just finished my report (now I have finished my report. The time is NOW. I have studied a lot this year. The year is not over. The action is referring to the time of the year. We are in 2019. We also use it when we can see a result of something. It has rained. The result is the wet ground. You will find many more examples in my blog post about present perfect simple. Here are a few:

I have broken the vase – the result is the broken vase

I have done my homework – the result is the finished homework

I have moved to another town – NOW I am living in another town

I have washed the car – the result is the clean car

Present perfect progressive

In this lesson I want to focus more on the present perfect progressive using some examples from the present perfect simple so we can compare them. The present perfect progressive or sometimes called the present perfect continuous is used when we are talking about a long period of time. The action is still continuing after a long period of time or it has just finished with a result. In some cases both the present perfect simple and the progressive can be used but the meaning changes. Lets look at the following examples:

I have driven to many countries – present perfect simple – I use this one to say that I am not driving anymore. My action is complete with a result. The result is that I have been to many countries with my car.

I have been driving all day – present perfect progressive – I use this to say that my action continues over a long period of time. All day refers to a long period of time and I continue to drive.

The children have been playing in the mud – the action has stopped but there is a result. The children have dirty hands.

I have been teaching for 15 years. I continue to teach. 15 years is a long period of time.

I have lived in many countries. I have a permanent residence in another country.

I have been living here for many years – I continue to live in that country.

It is important to remember that if the action is short or uses state verbs such as be, know or have, you can only use the present perfect simple.

I have been knowing is INCORRECT – I have known is CORRECT.

Lets look at the following examples:

I have cut my hand – present perfect simple is more appropriate. It is a quick action thus this tense is correct.

I have been cutting my hand – If I use the present perfect progressive, it looks like I am hurting myself so it would sound strange. Why would I do that?

I have been cutting onions – this sentence would be correct. There is a result. My eyes are red and the action is longer.

Now that you know the differences. Try to practise these with exercises such as esl present perfect simple vs present perfect progressive or

It is very important to practise these exercises. Try to do as many as possible until you are satisfied with your scores. Then listen to native speakers use them and understand why they are using them. Try to write a short story using them and then upload the document to the grammar checker. Remember our saying practice makes perfect. You can learn and do anything you want if you have passion and practise.

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