Imagine that you're waiting for your friend X and you finally meet him. Is it better to use Past Progressive or Present Perfect here?

I've been waiting for you for 5 hours.


I was waiting for you for 5 hours.

In my opinion, Past Progressive looks pretty logical because you're not waiting him anymore - he's here, so the waiting is over. However, it seems that I've never seen 'I was waiting for you' in such situation.

Present Perfect, on the other side, seems possible when you're talking to X about your friend Y.

You know, X, I've been waiting for Y for 5 hours (and I am still waiting because he hasn't arrived yet)

It would be very nice to see what others think about this.

  • I would suggest that in the future, don't be too quick to mark an answer as "correct". That way, you can get more replies that provides you with more insight into your question. (I've said the same thing when my own answer to a question was marked "correct" too quickly.) Commented May 4, 2014 at 18:36
  • Yeah, I was too hasty. Don't know whether I should unaccept that answer or leave it as it is. Commented May 5, 2014 at 8:40

2 Answers 2


There's no right or wrong answer here, you can use either one in this situation.

If you say "I've been waiting for you for 5 hours." you're concerned with right now,

If you say "I was waiting for you for 5 hours.", you're concerned with the past.

  • Unfortunately, it doesn't make things clearer. I'm aware of general difference between Past Simple and PP, but the case I've given doesn't look very obvious. What would you use if you were in such situation? Even though I think Past is more logical, I would use PP for unknown reason. It 'sounds' better for me, but I'm not a native speaker so I can't be sure. Commented May 1, 2014 at 13:41
  • Oh, forget it. I've checked some books and posts and now I think that Past Progressive (don't know why I called it Simple in the first post) shouldn't be used with 'for'. I think, Present Perfect or Past Perfect are okay. Commented May 1, 2014 at 19:03
  • 1
    They're both correct, I use both often. Remember that I've been is talking about the past up until now, so it still involves the present. But you always use the past continuous whenever you want to say for example, ` I was waiting for you - when I saw a cool car. ` was + continuous + past simple. So if you want to talk about something that happened while you were waiting you would use the second one. But if you just want to say I was waiting for you for 5 hours. You can say it either way really. Even past simple would be fine
    – ReedJones
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 20:14
  • Thanks. I think, I would prefer using Simple when I'm talking about something finished in the Past (e.g. I waited for you for 5 hours yesterday but you didn't appear). Commented May 2, 2014 at 7:28
  • Another point: "I've been waiting for you for 5 hours" can be said in a way to indicate disappointment/indignation. Commented May 4, 2014 at 18:43

The present perfect continuous is the correct tense. Since you finally meet him, that means that you have been waiting for him for five hours up to the present.

The present perfect continuous is used to put emphasis on the duration of an action which started in the past, (in your case 5 hours ago) and continues up to the present. So, when you finally meet him, you will probably say:

"I've been waiting for you for five hours."

The past continuous, on the other hand, is used for an action which was in progress at a stated time in the past, without mentioning when the action started or finished. So you could say:

"At seven o'clock I was waiting for you across the street."

and not

"I was waiting for you for five hours."

  • Thank you. I've felt as if Past Progressive wasn't appropriate in my example but I wasn't completely sure. Commented May 1, 2014 at 19:07

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