how are you?

Well, my biggest doubt at the moment is the difference between these two tenses. Actually, the more I study the more I have doubts with these tenses.

Present Perfect vs Present perfect continuous / Is there any difference between Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous?

These similar threads helped me to clarify and reiterate my previous understanding.

I'm not posting in these threads because the site suggests avoiding asking for clarification (I don't know why because it would avoid new threads with the same content).

My main doubt is as follows:

I've lived in New York for two years.

In my understanding, the sentence above implies (1) that I lived in NY for two years and now I live in another place; or (2) I'm moving to another city after two years living in NY; or (3) I lived in NY for two years, then I moved to another place for some period and, finally, I'm returning. Is that correct?

I've been living in New York for two years.

Whereas the sentence above, in my understanding, implies that I lived in NY for two years and I still living there.

Anyway, many sources that I've already read say that these two sentences have the same meaning and are interchangeable. Therein lies my question. Is that correct? Because if these two sentences are interchangeable, it destroys all my understanding.

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    They seem interchangeable, to me. What you say about the first one might be more true of the simple past: "I lived in New York for two years."
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 4, 2015 at 1:10

1 Answer 1


In my lifetime I've lived in many different countries. I've lived in England, Ireland, Spain and in Italy.

I lived in England when I was a young girl, and in Ireland for one year.

For the last ten years I have been living in northern Italy.

  1. I could in the future live in a different country. Actually, I'm thinking of moving to Boston in the USA in the near future. Hence I used the present perfect tense in the first sentence.

  2. I don't live in England or in Ireland now, therefore I used the past simple tense.

  3. I now live in Italy, it's a temporary situation, I might move to Boston but I'm still thinking about it. Using the present perfect continuous tense emphasizes the temporality of my situation. If I had written, I have lived in Italy for the last ten years the meaning would be the same, the listener/reader would understand that I am living in Italy now.

Michael Swan in Practical English Usage has this to say:

Present perfect: actions and situations continuing up to the present (details) Use of the present perfect

When we want to talk about actions or situations which started in the past and have continued up to the present, we often use the present perfect to show the connection between past and present. Note that we never use a present tense when we say how long a situation has been going on.

i) I've been waiting for three quarters of an hour.
ii) We have had this flat since 1955.
iii) I have always liked English people.
iv) I've studied human nature all my life.

The present perfect is also used for long actions and situations which started in the past and went on until very recently.

vi) I've painted two rooms since lunchtime.
vii) "You look hot." — "yes, I've been running."
viii) I've been reading some of your poetry. It's not bad.


Present perfect simple and progressive

The present perfect progressive is used especially for more temporary actions and situations; when we talk about more permanent situations, we prefer the present perfect simple. Compare:

  • I've been living in Sally's flat for the last month.
  • My parents have lived in Bristol all their lives.
  • I haven't been working very well recently.
  • He hasn't worked for years.

The present perfect simple is often used to express the idea of completion: to say that an action has just finished, or to talk about its results. The present perfect progressive emphasizes the continuation of the activity. Compare:

  • I've been reading your book. (= I haven't finished it.)
  • I've read your book. (= I've finished it.)

  • I've been learning irregular verbs all afternoon.

  • I've learnt my irregular verbs. (= I know them.)

  • Sorry about the mess — I've been painting the house.

  • I've painted two rooms since lunchtime.
  • This is really well done! Brava!
    – tchrist
    Feb 4, 2015 at 2:14
  • Actually, I agree with your interpretation at [3] for I have lived in Italy for the last ten years, though I still seeing that as an exception and it doesn't seem to have necessarily this meaning you are saying, right? In my opinion, it could mean that I lived in Italy for the last ten years and, now, I moved to Boston, for instance. Because if I still living in Italy there is a continuous action, or I'm wrong? Well, maybe it depends on where you are saying/writing. Saying that from Italy could be more intuitive interpretate as you did. I need to think more about it.
    – razmth
    Feb 4, 2015 at 3:04
  • @Mari-LouA when you said the present perferct and PPC are used to express an action that began in the past and continues to the present, hence they seem to be indistinguishable things. In Portuguese, the teachers distinguish as follows: PP express an action which started in the past and is already complete, but it still affecting the present. On the other hand, PPC express an action which started in the past and is not complete, so it still happening. Is that wrong?
    – razmth
    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:11
  • If I say: "I've lived in Italy all my life" does that mean I am not living there? Your teachers give you helpful guidelines, and explanations which "make sense" but nothing in any language is clear-cut. I could say about myself and a boyfriend: *"We've been seeing each other fairly frequently"*Does that mean the action is continuous and uninterrupted?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:18
  • 1
    I think the example We've been seeing each other fairly frequently was very helpful. There are some interruptions (nobody lives with the partner 24/7) but the adverb frequently could mean that there is a periodicity in this action which is continuous. Anyway, "capisco". Thank you very much for this helpful lesson. Kind Regards, razmth.
    – razmth
    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:46

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