In the following text:

The last time I went swimming was when we were in Spain.

I haven't been swimming since we were in Spain.

Why is present perfect progressive tense used in the second sentence? In my understanding, it should be present perfect simple as the speaker wants to highlight the fact that there were no cases when they performed the action of swimming, while progressive tense would be appropriate if they wanted to say that they haven't been doing it systematically, i.e. they might have gone swimming once or twice, but not on a regular basis.

Is it possible at all to say:

I haven't swum since we were in Spain.

What would the meaning be in this case?


1 Answer 1


This is because "to go swimming" is a set phrase, meaning to deliberately go somewhere for the specific purpose of swimming. One might swim without "going swimming".

This is coupled with the fact that it is a conventional alternative, when putting to go into the past tense, to flip it to been rather than gone.

I go to church every week
I haven't been to church for years

Thus, the "haven't been swimming" example may be understood as equivalent to "haven't gone swimming", depending on context. On the other hand, "haven't swum" will mean that you haven't physically swum. That may also be true, but is a different statement with a subtly different meaning, as compared to "haven't gone swimming".

One might also use "haven't been swimming" as the negative of "have been swimming" in sentences like:

I have been swimming for 15 years

That would mean that a person has either been swimming continuously, all the time, for 15 years (which it the sense it might be read as if it were "30 minutes" instead of "15 years"), or that a person has been swimming regularly or habitually for 15 years. The negative might be found as:

I haven't been swimming very long

Which could mean either a continuous period of swimming, or refer to how long the person has been swimming habitually or regularly.

  • Thank you! So swimming is a special case, I see. Feb 24, 2019 at 0:31
  • Well, it's not entirely special. The same thing can happen with a lot of verb that describe recreational activities, particularly those you go to specific places for - dancing, skating, etc. But in the dialect I grew up in, and the culture I grew up in, and the time I grew up in, swimming outnumbers all of them by some margin in terms of actually getting used.
    – SamBC
    Feb 24, 2019 at 0:46

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