How are we to understand whether present perfect progressive implies that the action is still in progress, versus implying it has stopped just now or recently?

In simple sentences like these two,

• I'm tired [now] because I've been running.
• Why is the grass wet [now]? Has it been raining?

it's obvious that the actions are complete, but not in the following five sentences:

• I have been living in Paris for two weeks.
• I have been reading for two hours.
• I have been talking with Jane on the phone(since 5:30 for ten minutes).
• I have been doing my homework.(For an hour)
• I have been working in the garden (for two hours).

  • 2
    The temporal expressions all indicate that the 'actions' (living?) have continued up to the time of speaking / writing (or just before). Without these temporal expressions, there is no indication that the episode did not end some time (though not a long time) before: 'I have been doing my homework - it's just that I've been ill these last two weeks.' Context is important. A bare 'I have been reading' implies until now, whereas 'I have been reading Chaucer' need not be 'up until this moment'. Apr 14, 2013 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


If you use the present perfect progressive with an expression of unfinished time (as in your last five sentences), then you imply that the action is continuing.

If there is no expression of unfinished time, then you imply the action finished some time in the past, but the effects are felt into the present.

  • Then it's like in present perfect tense. When present perfect is used with such expressions it suggests that the action is still in progress. For example: I have lived in Paris for two months. But without such an expression it would mean that the action is complete. Eg., I have lived in Paris. It's complete and the person doesn't live there anymore. Am I right, Shoe?
    – Monica
    Apr 14, 2013 at 18:35
  • Yes. With "I've lived in Paris", "She's worked on a farm", "He's spent time in jail", and so on, the implication in the absence of an expression of unfinished time (for or since) is that the action is complete.
    – Shoe
    Apr 14, 2013 at 19:00
  • Thank you very much. Could you please read this post and leave your reply? A grammar rule (Present perfect)english.stackexchange.com/questions/111338/…
    – Monica
    Apr 14, 2013 at 19:04
  • Hmmm, I read it once again and see now that the same rule applies. I was so confused.
    – Monica
    Apr 14, 2013 at 19:06
  • 1
    Barrie England's answer to your other question, which I had not seen, is correct. And yes, this is a difficult aspect of English grammar for non-native speakers!
    – Shoe
    Apr 14, 2013 at 19:09

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