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What is the difference between the followings?

A. I have been living here for 5 years.

B. I have lived here for 5 years.

Am I correct that these two represent the same event, but A emphasizes the continuity of living while B simply states a fact that you lived there from 5 years ago to the present?

Is it true that the difference in present perfect and present perfect continuous is whether a speaker intends to emphasize continuity or a fact?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The difference between your two examples isn’t great, but, depending on context, A might give a slightly stronger impression than B that the speaker will continue to live there.

The difference is more apparent in a pair such as:

I’ve been reading your book.

I’ve read your book.

The first suggests that the speaker is still reading it, whereas the second suggests that the reader has finished it.

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As I understand it, the present continuous tense is normally used to express an action that is temporary in nature, so if you were to say: "I am living in a flat." you would understand it to mean that it is not a long term arrangement. You could easily use the present perfect continuous to convey its temporariness and the exact length of time.

"I have been living here (in this flat) for five years." To me, suggests that the subject could one day change residence. It is not a permanent situation.

Whereas I would opt for the present perfect tense for lengthier periods of time. Contrast the earlier sentence with this one: "Anne has lived here all her life." Anne is 65 years old, she has never changed residence and she is unlikely to ever move. The action is continuous but also more permanent.

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I have been living here for 5 years can only be continuous and current.

I have lived here for 5 years can be continuous and current, or total period of time and current or total period of time but not current.

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1  
In the case of "total period of time but not current", wouldn't you say I had lived here for 5 years? –  ekbass Oct 6 '12 at 8:02
1  
I think the only way I'd say I have lived here for 5 years and mean that I had lived here for a total of 5 years some time in the past, is if I was in an argument and somebody said, "Try living here for 5 years" to which I might reply (with strong emphasis on the have), "I have lived here for 5 years." –  Jim Oct 6 '12 at 8:03
    
@ekbass: You're right, but it would probably then be I had lived there for 5 years. –  Barrie England Oct 6 '12 at 8:24
    
I agree with Barrie here. I'd say either "I did live here for 5 years 20 years ago" or "I lived here for 5 years 20 years ago", but "I had lived there for 5 years". –  user21497 Oct 7 '12 at 4:34

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