Choose the correct verb tenses to complete the sentences below.
Review of verb tenses B1-B2 – summary table
Present perfect simple or continuous?
Situations that started in the past and still continue
We can use either the present perfect simple or continuous for situations that started in the past and still continue. But we must use the present perfect simple with stative verbs, and we normally use the present perfect continuous with dynamic verbs (although the present perfect simple is also possible.)
- We’ve had this car for years.
- I haven’t been sleeping well lately.
We use the present perfect continuous with dynamic verbs for situations that started in the past and still continue when we want to emphasise how long the situation has lasted.
- I have been waiting for hours! (=I want to emphasise that I’ve been waiting for a long time).
- I couldn’t do the dishes. I’ve been working all day.
Finished and unfinished situations
We use the present perfect simple for finished actions in the past, and the present perfect continuous for situations (happening from the past till now) that may or may not have finished.
- Who has eaten my cookies? (=We would say this if there are no cookies left)
- Who has been eating my cookies? (=We would say this if there are some cookies left)
- I’ve been watching the series you recommended. I’ll tell you about it when I finish watching it.
- I’ve watched the series you recommended. I watched the last episode yesterday.
Actions with present results
We can use both present perfect simple or continuous for recent actions with a present result, but we use the present perfect simple when the present results come from having finished the action, and we use the present perfect continuous when the present results come from the process of performing the action (which may or may not have finished).
- Look how nice my car looks. I’ve washed it.
- Sorry I’m so sweaty. I’ve been washing my car.
- Something is different in this house. Have you painted it?
- How come you are so dirty? Have you been painting?