This is from a novel:

"We have walked along the beach and are now approaching the prom".

Why not use "we have been walking along the beach?"
It is recent and it conveys duration, so to me the present perfect continuous seems a good choice.

I thought the present perfect simple is used in contexts like:
"We have walked along the beach many times" or "We have walked 5 miles along the beach."


Without the whole context, including the circumstances and the narrator's attitude and state of mind, this choice of tense does sound a little strange to me as well.

I agree with you that "We have been walking ..., and are now approaching ..." seems more normal to describe this particular situation. As Bella Swan points out, "we have walked" indicates that the walk on the beach is finished completely.

It's possible the author is emphasizing that completion with the use of this slightly unusual verb choice. Perhaps there is a reason for it which would be made clear elsewhere in the novel. (E.g. if the narrator, one half of the couple, is dreading the prom. for some reason).

Otherwise, this sentence does catch the ear as interesting and a little strange: but not incorrect.

| improve this answer | |
  • C Does the fact that "walk along the beach" is an atelic activity make any difference? An atelic activity doesn't have a definite ending, so how can the walk be finished? And no, the narrator isn't dreading the prom, they are going for a beer. – – anouk Mar 28 '19 at 16:54
  • 1
    That atelic aspect is what causes the oddness of the sentence to begin with. A walk would normally be finished when the destination is reached or the goal is achieved. But in this case the walk seems to be just a minor part of getting to the prom. So when the author gives us a play-by-play description including the walk on the beach as a finished activity in itself, it gives the whole description an unexpected sense of importance. – Lorel C. Mar 28 '19 at 17:33

Present perfect tense depicts that the action has just been or recently finished (in the present).

The writer had finished his walk on the beach completely, and is in the middle of the process of reaching to the prom, hence Perfect tense used for the beach walk, and Continuous tense used for prom approaching.

| improve this answer | |
  • Yes, but the present perfect continuous is also used for recently finished actions, hence my confusion. Besides, "walk along" is an atelic activity. – anouk Mar 28 '19 at 12:48
  • 1
    "We have been walking along the beach" (perfect continuous) is not showing that the action has ended. It might still be happening. – Bella Swan Mar 28 '19 at 12:49

Apparently, the author didn’t want to highlight the duration of that amble. It doesn’t seem important to them. However, it’s important that they are no longer on the beach.

We’ve been there, now we’re here.

The stroll is completed, but the time frame isn’t yet. The Present Perfect is commonly used when the time period referred to has not finished.

We haven't seen her today.

She's drunk three cups of coffee today.

I've already moved house twice this year!

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.