For example: ...until/before I have been working here...

WRONG, why?

A complete sentence would be:

Before I have been working for McDonald's, I had been working for Chipotle.

The subordinate clause here logically means that I am presently working for McDonalds's. (The action is continuous, started from some point in the past.)

Were it not present perfect, the action would be non continuous and would sound vague.

  • 2
    Some subordinate clauses can contain the perfect progressive have been VERB-ing, as in "Although I have been working for McDonald's lately, I also have experience working for Chipotle." But since your subordinator before already signifies a time relationship, the tenses you have selected are too elaborate. Try something like "Before I started working for McDonald's, I worked for Chipotle." Jul 8, 2015 at 15:36
  • I think you could get away with it in, say, Before I have been working long enough to collect a full pension, I'll probably have died of old age. Jul 8, 2015 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


"Have been" doesn't work because you're using before as the conjunction. Try while, and "have been" works perfectly.

  • 2
    But it means something different. It's wrong with before because the present perfect requires a duration with a starting point in the past and an ending point in the present. Before isn't necessarily a duration, but if it is, it has a starting and an ending point in the past; no present. Jul 8, 2015 at 15:33
  • @JohnLawler, why not an ending point in the present? Something is before something in the present? Jul 9, 2015 at 14:29
  • 1
    Before I worked for McDonald's is fine, even though it refers to a duration; the point is that you started working for McDonald's at some time in the past, and any time before that is also in the past. But before I have been working for McDonald's is wrong because it uses present tense (cf before I work for McDonald's, equally wrong). Before and the present tense (including present perfect and present continuous and present perfect continuous constructions) are incompatible. You can say before now or just before with no object, and that means before the present; otherwise not. Jul 9, 2015 at 14:43
  • 1
    @JohnLawler, If I get it correctly, the use of before denotes that the two actions are in the same tense. What you are saying is that an action in the present cannot precede another also in the present. Also does this apply to "after"? Like you can't say "after I returned home from the park, I have been doing my homework." To be correct you must say" after....I started doing my homework." But if you can't use anything in the present with a past tense clause, how do you tell the reader that the action continues till now? Jul 10, 2015 at 15:16
  • This is about before clauses, specifically, and it's not about tense, really; it's just that before has specific limitations as to what it can occur with, durationally speaking. There is no generalization to "you can't use anything in the present with a past tense clause". Jul 10, 2015 at 15:47

The subordinate clause begins with "before." Therefore, it must be referring to a fixed event in time. Something cannot be said to "have been" before a continuous action -ing verb. "Before I started working" has the same effect of implying that you still work there. Obviously, you could use a past verb, "Before I worked" but if you want to really keep it simple, "Before working..." would be my favorite -- and satisfies the continuous aspect you're looking for,

  • But don't before "have been" means an action is before the starting point of that "have been" action? Jul 9, 2015 at 14:33
  • If you say before working, do people know that is a present action? Jul 10, 2015 at 15:06
  • See John Lawler's comment above about the limitations of "before." "Before working" may not explicitly say you are still working there today, but it is certainly implicit. So readers generally have the idea that the person still works for McDonald's, yes.
    – oakfish56
    Jul 10, 2015 at 18:39

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