17

The baby cries all morning.

The baby has been crying all morning.

I think both of these are grammatical but carry different meanings. The first one shows a general habit while the second one shows something has happened in the near past. Am I correct?

18

Yes, you are correct.

The present tense has (at least) two uses in English: It can refer to something that is happening right now, or, probably more often, to something that happens continually.

If I say, "John works at Fwacbar Company", I might mean that he is working there right now, at this instant. But more often people make such a statement to mean that he works there on a regular basic. He may not be working there at this very moment, but he worked there yesterday and will work there tomorrow and probably the day after that, and so on.

The present perfect continuous, like "has been crying", refers to action that began in the past and continues to the present. It is often used with a time frame of some kind, like "has been crying all morning", "have been working there for ten years", etc. Note the time frame could be very short or very long, like "My boss has been yelling at me for five minutes" and "The Ark of the Covenant has been lost for centuries" are both quite valid.

Update in response to comments

Let me explain the meanings of the different tenses.

"The baby is crying" means he is crying right now. Grammatically, there is no indication that he was crying in the past. He could have just started this instant. Indeed, that's often what people mean when they use this sentence. "Hey, honey, the baby is crying!" Note that we would not say, "The baby is crying all morning." That doesn't fit grammatically.

"... has cried" means he did it in the past but is not necessarily doing it now. If someone said, "The baby has cried all morning", I would take that to mean that the baby cried for a while, stopped, started crying again, etc, but is not crying now.

"... has been crying" means he did it in the past and is still doing it now.

Of course the same applies no matter what the verb is. "Bob is working at Fwacbar Company" means he is working there right now. As I said earlier, either right this instant, or in this period of time.

"Bob has worked at Fwacbar Company" means he worked there in the past, but does not indicate that he is working there now. Like if I said, "I know a lot of people who work at Fwacbar. Hey, does Bob work there?", and you replied, "Bob has worked at Fwacbar", I'd take that to mean that he worked there in the past but is not working there now. But "Bob has been working at Fwacbar" means he worked there in the past and is still working there.

  • Am I correct in the intuition that cries is the "usual" state: babies cry a lot, this one cries often in the mornings, whereas has been crying conveys some kind of speciality: this particular baby is normally quite calm, but now has been crying all morning, is perhaps something wrong with him/her? – Oleg Lobachev Mar 26 at 21:17
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    "I might mean that he is working there right now, at this instant." Is that right? I would never assume that from that sentence. If that was the intention, wouldn't the correct phrasing be "John is working at..."? "John works..." would ALWAYS mean regular basis. Could totally be wrong though, I just haven't heard that. – Aethenosity Mar 27 at 5:41
  • What about "He has cried all morning"? I don't see the difference between "be -ing", "have -ed" and "have been -ing", the three grammar forms means at the moment I'm saying it, the baby is crying. – Alexis_FR_JP Mar 27 at 7:40
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    @Alexis_FR_JP Interesting. "Has slept all morning" and "Has been sleeping all morning" certainly seem interchangeable. But with crying, "has been crying" seems more natural, perhaps because "to cry" on its own is by default an action of short duration rather than a continuous state. – Michael Kay Mar 27 at 8:35
  • @Alexis_FR_JP See my update. Too long for a comment. – Jay Mar 27 at 14:32
8

You're correct on the first sentence. It shows a general habit as you say.

The second sentence uses the present perfect continuous tense. It's use means that the baby has been crying all morning and is still crying in the present. The action or effect is still present and ongoing. So to say, "something has happened in the near past" would not be correct since that would be saying that the action is now over.

  • 1
    Well, The baby's been crying all morning... can be said right after they stopped crying (...; thank God you came!). I'd therefore reformulate it to say "up until now" (where "now" doesn't really have to mean this very instant, but it does literally). – userr2684291 Mar 26 at 14:54
  • "The baby's been crying all morning" can be said even before they stop crying. Or after. It's just a description of the state of affairs that morning. – nomen Mar 26 at 18:47

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