She is exhausted. She _____.
1. was running
2. is running
3. had been running
4. has been running

I wanted to complete the sentence, so which form should I use?

  • 1
    Please include the research you've done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. – NVZ Oct 13 '16 at 10:45
  • 4
    5. all of the above. There is no context and one can be exhausted while running, directly after running, a while after running or even a longer time after running. We have a great post about tenses. – Helmar Oct 13 '16 at 10:56
  • 3
    A teacher might well want the answer (4), which would very probably be the most expected answer. But 'Which form should I use?' is rather like asking 'Should I use a saw or bolt crops?' – Edwin Ashworth Oct 13 '16 at 11:19
  • @Helmar Including 3 in all of the above is a stretch. Past perfect progressive requires another past event/tense to make sense and "is exhausted" is present – eques Oct 13 '16 at 19:43

It's quite clear that your question is from an exercise in a grammar book or something similar. (And thus, the context is the exercise.)

Hence, the expected answer would be (4) has been running.

The following entry in Practical English Usage by Michael Swan should make this point clear:

458.6 actions and situations that have just stopped
We also use the present perfect progressive for actions and situations which have just stopped, but which have present results.
​   You look hot. ~ Yes, I've been running.
​   Sorry I'm late. Have you been waiting long?
​   I must just go and wash. I've been gardening.

Also note that has been running is likely the expected answer because the exercise includes the first sentence: She is exhausted, which is in the simple present (the verb is be; and exhausted is an adjective), and is a hint that the exercise expects you to relate the two sentences. (So, it's like "She's exhausted. Why is she exhausted?" "Because she has been running.") Keep in mind that in real speech, it's not impossible that a native speaker may use other choices (e.g., She's exhausted. She was running.) as you can see in several comments here. -- Another important point, as @Mari-Lou A mentioned in her comment under this answer, is that if the first sentence were in the simple past (i.e., She was running), shifting the tense of has to had would have been more appropriate, and She had been running would have been a better answer.

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  • I think you should emphasise that the first sentence contains a present simple verb is, hence any action that preceded this end result (is exhausted) must have occurred recently in the past. If the example had been: She was exhausted. ... number 3 would be the correct answer. – Mari-Lou A Oct 14 '16 at 7:45
  • I agree that the context is the exercise but you've arbitrarily chosen an exercise. Any of the four could be the exercise – Alan Carmack Oct 14 '16 at 12:22
  • @AlanCarmack My personal opinion toward this kind of exercise is perhaps unlike one by most learners: it doesn't necessarily reflect real English. It usually promotes the most probable choice as the correct usage, and sometimes it goes so far as to mark possible but less likely/frequently used alternatives as incorrect. When it comes to context, it usually assumes, again, the most probable scenario. I can see one advantage of this: it helps learners learn the more commonly used phrases and alternatives. This doesn't mean that it's perfect. It's just that it is usually how it is in exercises. – Damkerng T. Oct 14 '16 at 12:34
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks for mentioning that point. I added a note to my answer to cover that point. – Damkerng T. Oct 14 '16 at 12:41
  • 1
    Good edit, but I already upvoted your post, so we have to make do with a fist bump. :) – Mari-Lou A Oct 14 '16 at 12:48

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