19

What is the difference between the followings?

A. I have been living here for 5 years.

B. I have lived here for 5 years.

Am I correct that these two represent the same event, but A emphasizes the continuity of living while B simply states a fact that you lived there from 5 years ago to the present?

Is it true that the difference in present perfect and present perfect continuous is whether a speaker intends to emphasize continuity or a fact?

24

The difference between your two examples isn’t great, but, depending on context, A might give a slightly stronger impression than B that the speaker will continue to live there.

The difference is more apparent in a pair such as:

I’ve been reading your book.

I’ve read your book.

The first suggests that the speaker is still reading it, whereas the second suggests that the reader has finished it.

4
  • 1
    Can you say - I have lived in the USA for 5 years, standing in the center of Berlin ? – Beqa Apr 21 '18 at 16:23
  • I have been in the US for 5 years. is it right? – KbiR Jul 4 '18 at 10:20
  • "whereas the second suggests that the reader has finished it." - but isn't it against the concept of present perfect that the action is still continue? Wouldn't past perfect will be used in case that you not lived there any more? – Avihai Marchiano Dec 29 '18 at 8:16
  • The accepted answer really should have examples with similar time clauses. – Frank Schwieterman Mar 16 at 0:01
6

The present continuous tense is normally used to express an action that is temporary in nature. If you were to say: I'm living in a flat, some might interpret it as not being a long-term arrangement.

Likewise, the present perfect continuous conveys continuity and can emphasize its transitory state.

I have been living here for five years.

The above suggests that the person could one day change residence, it implies it is not a permanent situation whereas the present perfect tense is more suitable for lengthier periods of time. Contrast the earlier sentence with this one:

Anne has lived here all her life.

Anne is 65 years old, she has never changed residence and is unlikely to ever move. The action is not only continuous but it also suggests permanence.

1
  • "all her life" adds the implication of continuity, so it doesn't make the best example. Here's another example to consider: "I have lived in Mexico for 5 years and I have lived in Canada for 5 years." By your answer it'd imply I'm I'm stilling living in Canada and Mexico. – Frank Schwieterman Mar 16 at 0:06
5

The following interpretation is taken from the book Common Mistakes in CAE. Cambridge University Press by Debra Powell.

We use the simple aspect of tenses for actions which we think are:

• finished: I've done my homework. (the homework is finished)

• permanent: I've lived in England for 10 years. I've worked for this company for most of that time. (I think I will remain in England and continue to work for the same company)

We use the continuous aspect of tenses for actions which we think are:

• unfinished or in progress: I've been doing my homework. (it isn't finished yet)

• temporary: I've been living in England for six months. I've been working as an au pair. (I think I will leave England one day- my job is temporary)

1
  • I was about to dismiss this as a repeat of earlier answers. But it adds an attributed supporting reference. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 29 '19 at 15:18
2

I have been living here for 5 years can only be continuous and current.

I have lived here for 5 years can be continuous and current, or total period of time and current or total period of time but not current.

7
  • 1
    In the case of "total period of time but not current", wouldn't you say I had lived here for 5 years? – ekbass Oct 6 '12 at 8:02
  • 1
    I think the only way I'd say I have lived here for 5 years and mean that I had lived here for a total of 5 years some time in the past, is if I was in an argument and somebody said, "Try living here for 5 years" to which I might reply (with strong emphasis on the have), "I have lived here for 5 years." – Jim Oct 6 '12 at 8:03
  • 1
    @ekbass: You're right, but it would probably then be I had lived there for 5 years. – Barrie England Oct 6 '12 at 8:24
  • I agree with Barrie here. I'd say either "I did live here for 5 years 20 years ago" or "I lived here for 5 years 20 years ago", but "I had lived there for 5 years". – user21497 Oct 7 '12 at 4:34
  • 1
    @Beqa I think you're point is specific to the case where "here" is used (as a opposed to an arbitrary place "I have live in Paris for 5 years." so the conclusion won't generalize. – Frank Schwieterman Mar 15 at 23:26
-1

Unfinished (continuous) and permanent (perfect) are in terms of living somewhere, since the future is not known, mostly same. If there is a plan of leaving (finishing) then the present continuous be more precise.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.