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I have a question about the following sentences, which both refer to a single occasion:

Why are you out of breath?
I have been running for the bus. (uttered when entering the bus)

Why are you out of breath?
I have been running to work. (uttered when arriving at work)

I would like to know if both sentences are possible and if this is not the case why not? Is it to do with "running for" being atelic and "running to" being telic?

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  • I have been running, implies you have done it multiple times/ it is continuous. For example someone might say Wow you've lost weight to which they might reply Thanks, I've been running to work. You would say I had to run for the bus if asked why you were out of breath on a single occasion. – User112638726 Mar 25 '20 at 19:15
  • @User112638726 Can I ask if you are American? – anouk Mar 25 '20 at 19:33
  • nope, why do you ask? – User112638726 Mar 25 '20 at 19:37
  • Because of your answer. Usage of ppc differs among Americans and Brits. I am not criticising or anything, just interested. Are you British? – anouk Mar 25 '20 at 19:55
  • I guessed that. Does it sound American/British? Do you want to learn American or British English more? – User112638726 Mar 25 '20 at 19:58
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The Briish Council english web site offers this explanation of present perfect:

We use both the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) and the present perfect continuous (have or has + been + -ing form) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.

Note the highlighted text. if you ran for the bus, or to work, you probably stopped when you got there, so there is no connection to the present. You would have a connection to the present if you have been running to work every day, and you intend to do so tomorrow as well. In your examples, there is no connection to the the present, so you use simple past (indicating that you probably ran all of the way) or past continuous (indicating that you probably ran at least part, but not all, of the way):

I ran for the bus. - simple past
I was running for the bus. - past continuous

I ran to work. - simple past
I was running to work. - past continuous

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  • @JavaLatteThe connection to the present is that I am out of breath now. Why are you out of breath? I have been running. – anouk Mar 27 '20 at 11:29
  • @anouk: That's interesting: if you leave off "for the bus" or "to work", PPC is acceptable. Maybe specifying the destination/objective is like specifying an endpoint: if there is an endpoint, we prefer simple past/past continuous. – JavaLatte Mar 27 '20 at 13:20
  • I have found loads of examples stating: "I have been running for the bus" that is why I am confused. – anouk Mar 27 '20 at 13:45
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    I disagree with this (it may be an American/British thing). PPC is perfectly appropriate because, as @anouk correctly points out, it is in response to a question about the present ("why are you out of breath?"), so the answer is describing his present condition as being a condition that resulted from running for the bus. PC would also work, but that doesn't prohibit the use of PPC. "have been running to work" I think is also technically OK, but is more likely to be interpreted by a listener as a habitual act, rather than a single instance connected to the present. – Foogod Mar 27 '20 at 17:16
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    @anouk Yes, I think that's perfectly fine and natural. present perfect continuous makes sense there because you are talking about your present condition and saying that it is due to your past activity. – Foogod Mar 27 '20 at 18:36

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