Since present perfect continuous is used to talk about an activity that has finished, but whose results are visible now, can I use it for an action like these two ones;

'I have been living in Los Angeles.'

'I have been living in Los Angeles my whole life.'

Meaning that both actions are finished actions, as I have relocated recently to another location and the result of my relocation is obvious.

If present perfect continuous doesn't show that these two actions above are finished actions, then in what cases does present perfect continuous express that the action has finished?



3 Answers 3


Present perfect continuous, aka present perfect progressive - expresses an action that recently stopped or is still going on. It puts emphasis on the duration or course of the action.

Although it doesn't necessarily imply the action has finished, it very specifically contextualises the "duration or course" of that action relative to the present moment. Often, to indicate that the action has been continuous right up until [about] now, and has either just ended or will end very shortly.

In fact, unless the context or specific verb suggests otherwise, it more commonly implies that the action is still ongoing. Thus for example "I have been living there for years" normally implies you're still living there at the time of speaking.

But we often use this construction when the action has just finished - for example, when answering the telephone you might say "I've [I have] been waiting for you to call". In practice this means exactly the same as "I'd [I had] been waiting for you to call", since the context clearly implies you're no longer waiting.

Sometimes we use it simply to stress continuous action from past through present and on into the future - "I have been doing this all my life, and I'm not going to stop now".

Present perfect continuous (I have been doing sth) can be used whether or not you're still doing it, whereas past perfect continuous (I had been doing sth) always implies you're no longer doing it.

  • It's clear to me that in your example ( "I've [I have] been waiting for you to call") and in an example like this one; My hands are dirty, because I have been gardening. present perfect continuous implies that both actions have finished, but it's not clear to me if I can use it in these two sentences; 'I have been living in Los Angeles.' 'I have been living in Los Angeles my whole life.' to mean that these two actions have finished too.
    – Monica
    May 15, 2012 at 19:14
  • @Monica: I don't think there's any context where you can say "I have been living in Los Angeles my whole life" if you're not still living there. Per my third paragraph, the default meaning of the tense is that it's still ongoing. To convey that you no longer live there, you'd have to say "I had been living...", or "I lived..." May 15, 2012 at 22:07
  • ...as for "...because I have been gardening", it's just the context that suggests "completed action". I can quite validly say "My rich aunt has been supporting me through my first year at college, and will continue doing this next year - but she says I will have to pay my own way for the final year". Don't be fixated on the idea that this tense automatically implies the action is finished at time of speaking - that simply isn't true. May 15, 2012 at 22:19
  • ... "I'm bored because I've been sitting here in this chair with no-one to talk to for hours" certainly doesn't imply you've actually got up out of your chair. May 15, 2012 at 22:22
  • Thanks very much for your explanations. I understand now.
    – Monica
    May 16, 2012 at 8:45

"My rich aunt has been supporting me through my first year at college, and will continue doing this next year..." - in which year does the saying of the sentence take place?

In the person's first year at college. (The first year has not finished yet). We know this because 'next year' must mean the second year, not the third...

  • What has this got to do with the question?
    – Chenmunka
    May 7, 2015 at 15:01
  • It's present perfect continuous. He wanted to know if the action is finished or not.
    – user120840
    May 10, 2015 at 16:51

You asked:

Does 'I have been driving my car' mean that I have been driving my car recently, but I am not driving it at the moment? Can it mean anything else?

Yes, it can mean something else. It can mean the car is still being driven. Imagine two people in a car, one person is driving and they have been travelling for an hour.

Passenger: Why haven't you fed the cat in the last hour?

Driver: (Because) I have been driving my car!!

But this would be more natural if the person said simply "[Because] I have been driving!".

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