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Present Perfect: Permanent vs. Temporary

Indicate long– or short–term activity

Tower of Pisa with tourists
 

Present Perfect — Nonprogressive vs. Progressive

PERMANENT

Depending on the meaning of a verb, an action or state in the present perfect may express permanence. The verb in the present perfect expresses duration of an activity, event or state, which occurred sometime in the past, and (1) may have ended recently, or (2) may continue into the future.

has stood-permanently

The tower has stood in Pisa since 1370. 

(The Tower of Pisa took 334 years to complete.)

The structure has leaned since 1178. 

(The foundation began to fail after adding the third level)

The foundation has sunk for many decades.

The tower hasn't stood at a 90º angle since the third level was added.

TEMPORARY

Depending on the meaning of a verb, an action or state in the present perfect progressive may express temporariness. The verb in the present perfect progressive expresses repetition (recurring actions) or continuous activity from past to present, which is ongoing and may extend into the future.

have been standing-temporarily

We have been standing in line to visit the tower.   (tourist activity)

We have been leaning against a wall waiting.

We have been taking selfies with the tower.

We have been climbing the 296 steps to the top for 25 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Present Perfect Adverbs (time expressions)

Specify the timing of an action or activity

tourists
 

 

Adverbs for Present Perfect Tense

DEFINITE TIMING  "HAPPENING BEFORE AND UP TO NOW"

Adverbial expressions with definite timing are used when actions have starting times and ending times relative to the current moment (now). Compare (1) I have just walked to class this morning. The period ended when I arrived at class. (done, perfective) to (2) I have been walking to class this morning. The period will end when I arrive at class. (may be ongoing, imperfective)

BOTH PROG. NONPROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

He has just visited Pisa.

He has just been visiting Pisa.

He has visited Pisa today.

He has been visiting Pisa today

A TIME PERIOD RELATIVE TO NOW A STARTING TIME UP TO NOW

just (just, recently, [neg.] lately)

I have just walked a mile.

I have just been walking a mile.

today¹ / tonight (a time starting from within this time to current time) 

 

so far (to date, up to now)

I have read 40 pages so far.

*I have been reading 40 pages so far.

this month¹  (a time starting from within this time to current tim:morning, evening, week, semester, this spring, year, decade, century)

already (earlier than expected)

I have walked 10 minutes already.

I have been walking 10 minutes already.

since / ever since (from this time to current time: 6:00 AM, noon, midnight, this morning, May 2012; ever since I met you)

yet (later than expected)

I haven't walked 10 minutes yet.

*I haven't been walking 10 minutes yet.

from last Monday until now (1 PM until now)

 

 

 

 

INDEFINITE TIMING "HAPPENING SOMETIME"

Adverbial expressions with indefinite timing are used when activities or states happen "sometime", not related to the current moment (now). The precise time is not important. The focus is on the activity or state.  These adverbs express duration (a period of time) or repetition (the interval of occurrence). They are mostly imperfective (may extend in the future).                        

MOSTLY PROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

He has visited Pisa recently.

He has been visiting temporarily.

He has often given tours.

~He has often been giving tours.

DURATION— PERIOD REPETITION — INTERVAL

temporarily(continuously, briefly, momentarily) [imperfective, ongoing]

⇒ Mostly progressive.

repeatedly(constantly, continuously, again and again, perpetually, eternally)

⇒ Switch to "keep" with progressive.³

for a moment (ten minutes, a week, a month, for a while², a little while, a day,  forever)  ⇒ Often present perfect.

always (routinely, customarily, usually, in general, normally, often, sometimes, hardly ever, never) 

during the week (month, year, etc.)

⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

ever  (requesting any experience: before) 

from Monday to Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM, morning to night)

all my life

at night (noon, midnight, sunset)

in spring (winter, summer, June, July)

while it is warm(a relative period of time: when, if, whenever, before, after)  before sunrise  (after)

on Mondays (Tuesday, Sundays, etc.)

most days (nights, weekends, etc.)

over the past year (weeks, decades, centuries)

throughout the year (weeks, decades, centuries)

every / each / every other  (hour, day, night, week, month, year, May, spring)

 

¹ time expressions such as like today or this month include time that is past, present and future. With the present tense, we understand the time to be present, current, now.

² for a while (PP) – can be understood in two ways: (1) having some amount of duration, or (2) being very temporary

³ keep + verb+ing – Repetition can be expressed by using the "keep" (I keep walking.  He kept smiling.)  The progressive with "repeatedly" (*I am walking to class repeatedly. )sounds awkward.

Also see Ever v. Never, Already v. Yet., Adverbs of Frequency, For v Since.

"Leaning Tower of Pisa–Exterior." By Jordiferrer. Wikimedia, 7 Aug. 2016. Licensed under CC BY-SA4.0 International.

 

 

 

 

Static Verbs

In Present Perfect Progressive

 

 

 

Verbs that Change Meaning in the Progressive

STATIC VERB

The nonprogressive form is used with most static verbs.

STATES OF BEING

He has been here for a while. 

The president has looked tired for the past few months. appears / seems 

He has appeared to be uncomfortable in public. looks 

POSSESSION STATES

We have owned our home for several years.

We have had our house since 1990. owned   

COGNITIVE STATES

He has known the secret for a while.

They have believed in God for centuries.  

SENSORY STATES

I have heard what you said.

He has seen the new plans. looked at

He has sounded better since he started taking his medicine. appears

MEASUREMENT

The cost equals $100,000.

He has weighed a lot for quite some time.  

DYNAMIC VERB

Some static verbs have different meanings when used in the progressive form.

STATES OF BEING [NOT USED]

The president has been looking for new advisors. expression–"searching"

Joe Smith has been appearing on stage for three months. expression–"acting"

POSSESSION STATES [NOT USED]

I have been having a lot of headaches recently. expression–"experiencing"

COGNITIVE STATES [NOT USED]

SENSORY STATES [NOT USED]

He has been seeing a new doctor. expression–"visiting, going to"

The alarm has been sounding all day.  expression–"ringing"

MEASUREMENT [NOT USED]

He has been weighing himself every day.  expression–"measuring weight"

 

Related pages Stative Verbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Errors and Solution

ERROR

I have lived in the dormitory for a week

How have you been liking your new school?

SOLUTION

I have been living in the dormitory for a week. (Use progressive.)
I have lived in the dormitory for six years. (Use a larger quantity of time.)

How has your experience been at your new school.

The progressive use of "like" sounds affected (artificial) to many.  

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

A Change of Interest

grandfather
 

 

Read the Context

My grandfather (teach) high-school history courses for the past twenty-five years, but he (not– work) so much lately.  

In general, he (keep) himself in good health, but (not-feeling) energetic in the past few months.

He (swim) daily for several years, but his shoulder (bother) him recently.

He went to see his doctor, the same one he (have) for twenty years, who mentioned that he (consider) retiring.

My grandfather (always-dream) of traveling, but he (not-able) because of his work. 

Since his talk with his doctor, he (think) about his own retirement.

For years, he (present) lectures to his students on famous world landmarks, but he (never-see) them in person.

For this reason, my grandfather decided that (work) long enough and he (write) up his "bucket list".

He (look) into historical tours, and found out that the university he attended (have) an alumni tour program for 140 years.

He (always-want) to see the Alhambra, the Parthenon, the Agora, Ephesus and Cappadocia.

He (sign)up for a historical tour to exactly these places.  He will be seeing the sites he (study) for so long.

alumnus (sing.) / alumni (pl.)  former graduate of a university or college

bother (V) – irritate, annoy, cause trouble (pain)

bucket list (expression) – places to go or things to do before dying

energetic (Adj) – filled with energy and enthusiasm

landmark (N) – a famous building or site that is known around the world

retirement (N) – the age (~65) at which a person stops working (and does other things.)

Cal Discoveries Travel 

 

 

 

 

Simple present perfect or progressive?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-12" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left.

Note that in most cases below, the progressive can be used when placing emphasis on a continuing or repetitive activity (but not for static verbs.)

 

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