I have been studying about 'present perfect continuous' and found out that we use the tense to talk about a finished activity in the recent past. (source)

e.g., I’ve just been cleaning the car. (The car is wet and clean.)

And I also found out from the same source that we use the 'present perfect simple' to talk about a finished event or state in the very recent past. (source)

e.g., Niki and John have just come back from a week in Spain.

So can I conclude that for a finished activity or event in the recent past, I can use both 'present perfect continuous' and 'present perfect simple'?

If they are not completely interchangeable, please explain the differences. And I am sorry for my bad English.

1 Answer 1


The present perfect simple and present perfect continuous are quite similar. In regard to your definitions of the tenses, they are not only used to describe activities that finished in a recent past but can also be applied to those that started in the past and are still ongoing/unfinished.

Anyway, here are some of the differences between the two:

Usually, the present perfect continuous is used when the focus is on an activity that is unfinished.

I’ve finished my homework. I did it this morning.

I’ve been working on this problem for hours. I am still looking for a solution.

The present perfect simple gives the idea of completion:

She has spoken to the manager.

The present perfect continuous suggests that something is unfinished:

She's been speaking to the manager for 30 minutes.

As you might have noticed, the present perfect continuous can be used to emphasize the length of time that has passed.

The present perfect continuous can also be used to emphasize that something is temporary:

She's been running a lot recently. (She doesn't usually do this).

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