Is there any difference between the present continuous and present perfect tense in each of the following sentence pairs when both tenses express repeated actions?

For example,

  1. He is always helping others.
  2. He has always helped others.


  1. She is always working hard.
  2. She has always worked hard.

The first sentence that I saw in a grammar book has no context, and I add another sentence in present perfect tense for comparison. The complete context of the fourth sentence is "She's always attended classes regularly. She's always worked hard." The third sentence is wrote by myself for comparison. It would be better if you could give me some examples.

  • Do not use signature, taglines, or greetings. "Thank you" is considered noise here and will be deleted.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 15:17
  • Jeremy, although you listed it as second, where did you find any suggestion that the two persons are admired by the speaker for their behaviour, please? There is no faintest hint of admiration in what you posted and it might be irrelevant and it also might matter very much where that came from and what you thought it meant… Further, the details in your Question indicate a much greater, underlying confusion. First, exactly how could being confused about them a few days matter, please? More Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 20:19
  • Further… This sounds trivial or pedantic, but did the man and woman mean in the first example the man; in the second, the woman or in any and every example, a man or woman or what, please? It might not be important in other Questions but when you’re asking about tense constructions expressing repeated actions it does matter that people are doing something during a long time doesn’t work in English. That begs the question, was it a poor translation or is the content not transferable from your main language to English or is the concept equally difficult in your language? More Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 20:21
  • Further… if always is removed, both sentences see a very slight change in meaning but your Question was about the difference between them; that remains unchanged. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 20:23
  • Hi, Robbie. Thanks for your comments. I am learning English grammar with a grammar book. For the fourth sentence , the complete text is "She's attended classes regularly. She's always worked hard". The text is translated to my native language. From my native language, it seems that the woman is admired for her regular attendance. Because I just learned the present progressive tense a few days ago, I was wondering whether the present progressive and present perfect tense have the same meaning when they express repeated actions. More
    – ing
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 6:41

1 Answer 1


All of the examples are very context related, and usually, the common speaker would use the present simple for both of them:

He always helps others.
She always works hard.

You can use the present progressive for repeating action in the present to emphasize that that action is annoying or absurd.

For the first example, I can imagine a situation where you and your friends are in a hurry to somewhere, and suddenly you friends stops to help some stranger. out of anger, you say "God, why does he have to do it every time? He's always helping others!"

As for the present perfect one, you can use it if you really (but really) want to stress the fact that the action started in the past, but also continues into the present. be careful about it, as most actions hold in the present, and you use it to really stress that fact.

So I can imagine someone sitting with his mother and talking about his brother. his mother tells how he used to help her when he was young, and how he helps others in his job as a doctor (vet/lawyer/etc.) you agree with her saying "yeah, He's always helped others."

I would also have to say that from my observations, north-American speakers (from the States/Canada) usually choose to use the perfect progressive tense instead of the perfect simple one for activities (even if they don't happen in the moment of speech). so it's not unlikely for the common American/Canadian to say "He's always been helping others. "

Again, the most "neutral" or "context-unrelated" tense for these two (or any action which happens generally in the present) is the present simple tense.

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