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What is the difference between the following two sentences?

  1. I have been working here for 20 years.
  2. I have worked here for 20 years.

The present perfect tense is used for repetitive or constant actions that began in the past and continue to the present. The perfect progressive tense is used for continuous actions that began in the past and continue to the present. But I really don't see the difference here.

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For most purposes there's no difference. Some people might sometimes perceive #1 as carrying a slightly stronger implication that you expect to continue working here after making the statement, but in practice that would rarely affect anyone's choice of phrasing. –  FumbleFingers Mar 6 '13 at 6:05
    
The only difference I see is that if someone were to insert a phrase such as 'on and off' into the sentence, #2 would be a more common phrasing. –  jimbotherisenclown Mar 6 '13 at 9:04

8 Answers 8

During my English course I was told that the present perfect tense and the present perfect continuous tense can be used interchangeably in many situations, and it appears to be one of them. However, there is a subtle difference: #1 focuses more on the very activity of working, whereas #2 concentrates on the state (i.e. a job). Therefore, it would probably be more justified to use #1 when talking about a person who carries the same task on and on, endlessly (the Danaides? Sisyphus?); and #2 is somewhat closer to "I have been employed here for 20 years." Still, I am not a native speaker of English ang my arguments may prove wrong.

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In this case, the two cases mean exactly the same thing, although maybe with slightly different nuances.

English can be quite tricky when it comes to deciding between tenses such as the pair you mentioned. Often it is a case of convention and using the wrong one will make you come across as a non-native speaker.

As a native speaker, I'll probably tend to say "I've been working here for 20 years".

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Both sentences communicate the facts that you started working here twenty years ago, worked here over the course of the past twenty years, and that your status of working here has not changed.

The difference is one of emphasis.

The lyrics from the old song,

I've been working on the railroad all the live-long day.

emphasizes the continuity and ongoingness of this work. If the song lyrics were

I have worked on the railroad all the live-long day.

then the same material facts would be presented: the speaker started working on the railroad at the beginning of the live-long day and continues to do so now. But the first construction emphasizes the enduring nature of the work does not.

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There is difference.

Present perfect tense is employed in sentences describing some experience from the past.The exact time is not higlighted.

2nd sentence " I have worked here for 20 years " is an experience of working " here" for 20 years. Which 20 years? 1980-2000? 1992-2012? You can't get the information regarding "exact time" from present perfect tense.

1st sentence " I have been working here for 20 years" is present perfect progressive. It means you are currently working there for past 20 years i.e. from 1993-2013(current year). "Exact time" is implicit here.

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I Think it's just a matter of emphasis...in the Present Perfect Continuous you want to emphasize the action.

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As a native speaker, I would say that in this particular context (for + time or since + time) there is very little difference and you could probably employ either tense.

However, if we added something like "all day" (I've been working here all day), the PPC is more appropriate as you're really trying to emphasise that the work has been ongoing and you're now really tired as a result.

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There is a big difference between both phrases. The 1st sentence tells us, he is still in his work and will continue. 2nd sentence tells us, he just quit from that work.

Thanks

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While I would agree with your interpretation of the first sentence, nothing in the second sentence requires that he as stopped working. –  choster Apr 3 at 15:12
    
Both sentences mean he is still there. The tense he would use if he weren't still there is "I worked here for twenty years." –  Peter Shor Apr 3 at 15:19

The present perfect tense is used for repetitive or constant actions that began in the past and completed in near future. The perfect progressive tense is used for continuous actions that began in the past and continue to the present. You are almost very near to the answer.

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