First, here's a quick review of the structure of both forms:
Note: Have and Has are often contracted. Have becomes 've or and has becomes 's respectively.
> For example, 'I have' becomes 'I've'
Result vs Duration
Present Perfect > 'I've made 24 cakes'
- The emphasis is on the final result, in this case the quantity of cakes.
Present Perfect Continuous > 'I've been making cakes all day'
- The emphasis is on the process or the duration of the event i.e. it took all day.
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Here is another comparison using homework as an example
Present Perfect > 'Woohoo! I've finished my homework!'
- The emphasis is on the final result. In this example the task (homework) is done and the person shows satisfaction that the task is completed.
Present Perfect Continuous > 'I've been doing my homework all day!'
- Here the emphasis is on the activity and duration of the action. In the example, the focus is not whether the action is completed or still in progress but the fact that it is a long process.
When Both Forms Are Valid
Both Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous can be used in situations where the action started in the past and is ongoing.
Exam Tip! If you are in an exam situation and you know that both options are valid, try to use present perfect continuous because it shows that you understand and can use a more complicated grammatical structure.
Present Perfect > 'I've lived in London for 30 years'
- The action began in the past and is still true now
Present Perfect Continuous > 'I've been living in London for 30 years!'
- Shows an action (task, activity etc) in progress until recently or the time of speaking
Therefore, if the person speaking still lives in London at the time of speaking then both forms are correct.
Present Perfect > 'The economy has improved'
> Comparing the past with the present and looking at the final result.
Present Perfect Continuous > 'The economy has been improving over the years'
> An ongoing process or a series of repeated actions
Again, both forms are valid but Present Perfect suggests that the event happened only once or on a specified numbers of occasions while Present Perfect Continuous suggests that the action was ongoing or continuous.
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