Is it correct to think that if I say

I have been ill for a week

it could both mean I am still ill or I just got better?
I thought that if you have recovered you should say

I was ill for a week.

3 Answers 3


To say:

I have been ill for a week

means that you are talking about the past seven days, whether or not you are still ill or you have just recovered.

To say:

I was ill for a week

suggests that you are talking about some period in your past, as in last month, last year or over Christmas.

Obviously, there's a grey area between the two. Several days after feeling better you might decide to use was ill but generally you would go on to indicate when you were ill or why you were ill, as in:

I was ill for a week while on holiday.

I was ill for a week after eating seafood.

  • 1
    so it is possible to say "I have been ill" when you have just recovered.
    – anouk
    Jun 30, 2018 at 10:26
  • @anouk Indeed it is - bearing in mind that recovery is a process rather than an event. Jun 30, 2018 at 10:28
  • @anouk There is no "better choice," it's what you feel like writing. If you want to convey an unambiguous meaning, then add one. " . . .but I'm fine now." " . . .but now I'm recovering." " . . .and I'm still sick." Jun 30, 2018 at 14:05
  • @ronald sole It is just that grey area that has been giving me trouble. What is the better choice for the grey area? The present perfect if you are still in the recovering process and past simple if you have fully recovered?
    – anouk
    Jul 2, 2018 at 10:51

We use the Present perfect progressive tense (e.g. I have been [something]) to describe an action that began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future. This tense is formed by using has/have been and the present participle or an adjective. Thus "I have been ill (or suffering from an illness) for a week" means I started being ill a week ago, I am still ill, and may continue to be ill.

We use the (simple) past tense (I was [something]) to express or describe an action or situation that was started and finished in the past. Thus, "I was ill for a week" means that I started being ill at some unspecified time in the past, and continued being ill for one week, after which I recovered.

Verb tenses


You are correct

I have been ill for a week.

would be understood to mean you still may be ill.

I was ill for a week.
I had been ill for a week.

Would be understood that you are better now, the past tense implies a change of state.

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