a. They have been throwing papers.

b. They have been throwing papers since the teacher left.

Does the sentence (a) have the same meaning as sentence (b), even though the period of time is not stated in sentence (a)? Or is it that sentence (a) can only mean that they threw the paper and have stopped now?

  • The most important thing to note is that in both cases, it is implied that the throwing of paper in the past has some impact on the present (ie: they are still rowdy or are still throwing papers, or there is paper all over the classroom, etc.)
    – snumpy
    Apr 19, 2011 at 19:23

2 Answers 2


They basically mean the same thing, but:

A- Both could mean that the action is finished at the time of utterance's production.

Present Perfect Continuous has 2 uses:

  1. The action started in the past and has stopped recently or just stopped and the results are visible now. (You're late! What have you been doing?)
  2. The action started in the past and is continuing now. (We've been working a lot. It's time to stop for a cup of tea.)

B- Only the second one says when the action started being explicit about it.

(The examples provided are taken from my personal grammar, so you know they're correct.)

  • 1
    I don't agree that either of them means that the action has stopped.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 19, 2011 at 13:53
  • Uhm, re-checking everything I think in this case it's ambiguous, I'll edit my answer. Thanks for pointing it out.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 19, 2011 at 17:49

The first one more likely means that they've stopped now. The second implies that they are still throwing papers.

Compare it with rain:

It has been raining here.

It has been raining here since last week.

The second makes me feel that it's still raining; the first doesn't.

  • 2
    If I imagine this telephone dialogue : A: How is the weather over there today? B: It has been raining. I wouldn't be able to say whether it is still raining now where B is.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Apr 19, 2011 at 11:06
  • @z7sg: I agree that it could still be raining in either case; but I feel this is a bit more likely with a "since x", somehow. Apr 19, 2011 at 11:39

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