If you find nail clippings in the sink or on the floor of the bathroom at work for example, what would you say:

someone has cut their nails at work or someone has been cutting their nails?

I am asking because again I am confused: both can be used for a recent action with a result in the present. Present perfect simple if the focus is on the action being finished (short nails) and present perfect continuous if the focus is on the process of doing the action ( the cutting itself). In my opinion the focus is on the action, not the result of the finished action, but I don't know if the action is recent or not, maybe the clippings have been there a while. To clarify, the person who left the clippings is no longer there.

1 Answer 1


You would use:

Someone has been cutting their nails.

"Someone has cut their nails" feels a little presumptive, almost, and this correlates with the definitions you stated in your question. You don't really know if the activity was completed, nor do you really care (you wouldn't exactly start counting the nail clippings), you just know that someone has been cutting their nails.

You would also assume in a situation like this that the action could be described as "recent" (presumably someone has seen the sink without the nail clippings fairly recently, presumably the sink is cleaned from time to time, etc.).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .