I've encountered this sentence in my Cambridge grammar handbook:

  • How long ___(you/have) that bad cough?

I used Present perfect continuous while there is mentioned only Present perfect simple in the answers. In my view, both of them are right; I would say "how long have you been having that bad cough?' to emphasize the temporarity of the action which has been lasting for short period, time around now(2 weeks, for example.) I would say "how long have you had that bad cough?" if I knew that this state of health is permanent for the person(he has suffered the disease for several months, for example).

Could you tell me whether I am right or not?

  • 1
    have + been seeing, going, doing = the ing has to be an action verb. to have a cough is not an action verb.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


Gamarjobat, Anoano.

No, we hardly ever use the continuous with "have" meaning an illness or pain. We would do so only for recurrent conditions, with a plural object (eg "I've been having headaches for weeks").

For a cough, it would be "How long have you had that bad cough?" To say "How long have you been having that cough?" sounds as if you have planned to have that cough!

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