Unit 18. Present perfect (I have done / I have been doing) with how long, for, since

Study this example situation:

We use the present perfect continuous (I have been doing) to say how long something has been happening. Note that the action is still happening now.

  • I’ve been studying English for a long time.
  • Sorry I’m late. Have you been waiting long?
  • It’s been raining since I got up this morning. Sometimes the action is a repeated action (see also Unit 16b):
  • Liz has been driving for ten years.
  • How long have you been smoking?

    The continuous (I have been doing) or the simple (I have done) can be used for actions repeated over a long period:

  • I‘ve been collecting / I’ve collected stamps since I was a child.

    We use the simple (I have done) for situations that exist for a long time (especially if we say always). Note that the situation still exists now.

  • My father has always worked hard, (not has always been working) We use the continuous for situations over a shorter time. Compare:
  • John has been living in Caracas since January.
  • John has always lived in Caracas.

    Some verbs (for example be, have, know) are not normally used in the continuous (see Unit 3b for a list and Unit 23 for have):

  • How long have Bob and Alice been married?
  • Sue has had a cold for the past week, (not has been having)
  • Bill and I have known each other since high school.

    Do not use the simple present (I do) or present continuous (I am doing) to say how long something has been happening:

  • I’ve been waiting here for an hour, (not I am waiting)
  • How long have you known Jane? (not do you know)

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