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"Why is your baby's face so dirty?"
"She _______ (eat) chocolate"

I know, the answer is Present Perfect Continuous - has been eating. What about the Present Perfect - has eaten? Can't we use it in similar situations?

1

As commented by @stangdon, the use of the present perfect instead of the present perfect continuous isn't wrong.

You use the present perfect for an action completed recently. According to grammar, you can also use the present perfect continuous to talk about an action that ends just before the present. For example:

I have been swimming. That's why my hair is wet.

The use of the present perfect continuous in this sentence and the sentence presented sound more appropriate and easy on the ear.

  • Thank you very much. Could you tell me if there is any difference between British and American English in this case? – Helen Feb 14 '17 at 11:52
  • @Helen, In AmE, It's also correct to say "He just ate chocolate". – Khan Feb 14 '17 at 14:38
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If you're asking whether "has eaten" works in this context, then no. "Has eaten" is most often used to describe a life experience, and not an ongoing condition. You want either "has been eating" or "just ate" or "was just eating".

Example

Have you been eating chocolate? (were you just eating chocolate)

Have you eaten chocolate recently? (do you have the recent experience of eating chocolate)

Answers:

Yes, I was just eating chocolate

Yes, I ate some chocolate yesterday.

The exact meaning of the present perfect seems to vary with context and the verb used. For example:

They have eaten chocolate every day for ten years.

is roughly equivalent to

They have been eating chocolate every day for ten years.

However this is only because of the restrictions of the context. The first sentence implies they have a particular experience (of doing something every day), while the second implies an ongoing condition (of doing something every day)

  • Thank you very much. Could you tell me if there is any difference between British and American English in this case? – Helen Feb 14 '17 at 11:53
  • @Helen I don't think so, but you can ask this as a separate question of the British speakers on this site, or on English Language & Usage. – Andrew Feb 14 '17 at 16:57
  • @Andrew and that is why there is the exact duplicate question on EL&U english.stackexchange.com/questions/373686/… You're not supposed to ask the same question on the two sites, cross posting is against the house rules. – Mari-Lou A Feb 14 '17 at 21:37
  • @Mari-LouA my mistake then. It seems like it would be a good place to ask -- I suppose it would have been fine if Helen changed the text of the question. – Andrew Feb 14 '17 at 22:19
  • Pazienza! She didn't even change a comma, and she rolled back my edit. which had a different title too. – Mari-Lou A Feb 14 '17 at 22:31

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