I know we use present perfect tense for past actions which have present effects. We use it for unfinished actions which started in the past and still continuing as well. I have observed that we use stative verbs like want,know to tell our unfinished positions in perfect aspect like "I have known him for 5 years." and it means I still know him,my position or state didn't change (has not changed yet) over a period of time (for 5 years).

When we want to use an action verb we started doing it in the past and we are still doing it ,we make this action stative with "be" as in " I have been working here for 2 hours ".I learned "I have worked here for 2 hours" can also be used for this sense,but it doesn't emphasize the continuity of working at least to me.

What is the origin of that why do we use "been working" and why does it imply that we are still working ? Can we consider "have been" like "have become" ? Because when we use having become something it implies that we are that thing now as in "I have become old " it conveys that I am old now. "I have become {working} " and I am still {working} now.

2 Answers 2


The trick here, I think (or at least the way I look at it), is to realize that, as its name actually implies, the present perfect continuous (i.e. "I have been working") is actually a present tense. What this means is that when you use it, contrary to how most people think about it, you are talking about the present, you are not talking about the past.

That is, when you say "I have been working", you are not actually technically talking about working in the past. What you are doing is actually describing your present state, and saying that your present state is a state that happens as the result of previously working, that is:

I am currently in a state that is the result of having worked.

Now, the reason that this usually implies that something has been happening up until right now (or at least recently) is because one's state generally changes due to many factors over time, so the longer it has been since the cause of the state occurred, the less likely it is that something would still be considered to be in that state. There's some ambiguity in this, though, because it may depend a bit on what sorts of things one would consider to change what sorts of states. For example, you can say "I have been working" some time after you actually finished working (and went home, for example), but generally if you did some other significant activity (such as sleeping, or playing) since then, then you wouldn't consider your present state to still be "a state that's the result of having been working".

This then gets into the area of what's considered a "significant activity", which, even with the same verb, can depend a lot on context, of course. If you are actually at work, and talking with somebody about what you've been doing there, the relevant options are likely more limited (i.e. the implied question is probably something like "are you working or are you goofing off?"), and so it's implied if you're in the state of having been working (present perfect continuous) that that means you haven't been doing anything like "goofing off" between when you were working and now, and since there aren't a lot of other options, that means you must have been working up until right now.

Because we are talking about the present state, rather than the past, in some ways this is similar to "have become", which is also talking about the present (contrasted with something in the past). The big difference is that "have become" refers to a persistent change in ones nature (i.e. a much more fundamental and long-lasting change), whereas "have been" just refers to one's current state (which can change all the time for many reasons). Note that "have become" is the present perfect tense, whereas "have been verbing" is the present perfect continuous, so obviously, they are going to share some similarities due to their common present perfectness.


For me that is the most difficult aspect of the present perfect continuous, it can also be used for an action that has just finished, but with present results. A very popular example is: " it has been raining". You can use this sentence when the rain has continued for some time, but also when the rain has stopped and the streets are wet. The same goes for "have been working". You can say this in the middle of your working day, but also a little while after, because you are tired for example. "Why are you tired?" "I have been working". Being tired is a present result for a recently finished action.

  • Thank you.I understand.Can we say that to be working in the present time is a present relevence(present resul-effect) of having been working in the situation which we consider "have been working" as a continuous or unfinished activity ?
    – Help Me911
    Nov 13, 2019 at 16:37
  • I start work in the morning at 10 o'clock and finish at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. At 12 o'clock I would say "I have been working ( for 2 hours)" because I am in the middle of my working day and I haven't finished yet. I am still working in the present.
    – anouk
    Nov 13, 2019 at 18:01
  • I understand that,but I want to learn why we use "have been working". When it is 12 o'clock ( You have been working for 2 hours and you have to work 1 more hour to finish) is your being working a result of "having been working " ? Can I consider this phrase " have been working " as "to have become a working person" ?
    – Help Me911
    Nov 13, 2019 at 19:07
  • I don't understand your way of thinking, it means you started in the past and continue into the present. To have become a working person is to be employed, have a job. In that sense you can say : I have been working for 25 years .
    – anouk
    Nov 13, 2019 at 20:48
  • I think the answer I just posted might help a bit with understanding things like the "it has been raining" case, as well, and why some of the ways this can be used are so dependent on context..
    – Foogod
    Dec 18, 2019 at 19:09

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