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John has stood there for 5 hours.

vs

John has been standing there for 5 hours.

Is there any difference in meaning between the two sentences? Both actions are unfinished. Both are relevant to the present (John is tired and sweaty and hungry). Are there situations where we'd prefer using one tense over the other?

  • Your first sentence is very unnatural, if not just ungrammatical. – curiousdannii Aug 27 '14 at 2:24
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"John has stood there" is much less specific and it should not relate to the 5 hours...It is something he's done before or does at times...example: John has stood there before. I know he has. (This is the Present perfect)

"John has been standing there 5 hours" is good. (That is the Present perfect continuous) and it is okay to be more specific with that.

  • I see. Let me make sure I get this right. So "John has stood there for hours" would be correct, but "John has stood there for [specific time marker]" is not? I got a tad confused with the example from Teaching Tenses. "London has stood beside the Thames for hundreds of years." I guess that's a non-specific time marker, which makes it okay? – Paul Edison Aug 27 '14 at 8:17
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All you have to focus on is that the action is continuing or not.

if you are still standing in there, you can use have(s) been + ~ing.

ie) A) Tom has lived in New York for 5 years. B) Tom has been living in New York for 5 years.

If you hear the sentence A, less likely that he is still living in New York
anymore. If you hear the sentence B, he is still living in New York now.

so basically just think about continuous on-going event, unless you are English linguist and curious about many exempting usage.

  • So you're saying the difference between the two is probability? – Paul Edison Aug 27 '14 at 8:33

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