I have read in a grammar book that there is a difference between these two sentences and it is as follows:

"I have been swimming today" is said shortly after the swimming has stopped, hair is still wet or someone is just leaving the pool, for example.

"I have swum today" is said when the swimming happened earlier in the day. Maybe a few hours earlier.

Is this true? Because I thought that adding "today" makes a difference. I know that "I have been swimming" ( without "today")is said shortly after the swimming has stopped and there are results in the present = wet hair, for example.

Can anyone enlighten me?


Inclusion of a temporal adverb/adverb of time fixes the action of the verb in a specific "when" time frame. In your example "I have been swimming" without the temporal adverb, timing is ambiguous.

This complete sentence without "today" could mean the swimming took place recently (i.e., hair still wet) or it could mean much earlier (i.e., hair not still wet).

In verbal communication, the listener can see the speaker's condition (i.e., wet vs. dry; swim wear vs. dry clothes). In this "wet" instance, the temporal adverb is not necessary. In the "dry" instance, it is optional for clarity. If the speaker's appearance does not suggest time, then one may need to answer "when" for the listener's benefit.

In written communication, the temporal adverb informs the reader by setting the action in time.

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  • Would you say there is a difference between "I have been swimming today"and "I have swum today" in terms of time, how much time has passed between swimming and uttering the sentence? – anouk Mar 21 at 16:33
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    Difference is found in conjugation and tense of participle: "have been swimming" is present perfect continuous tense utilizing the present participle; "have swum" is present perfect tense utilizing the past participle. Neither one sheds any light on elapsed time between action and utterance. Although, some slight inference may suggest that the past participle might vaguely suggest more time has elapsed, but not necessarily. For the most part, they are the same. Personally, I would prefer to use "have been swimming" simply because "have swum" just sounds awkward to me. – Katherine Mar 21 at 21:06

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