So I've been taught that Present Perfect Progressive is sometimes used to emphasize the continuity of an action, as an explanation or an excuse:

I'm so tired because I've been running for two hours.

Present Perfect Progressive is also used to make excuses with an apology. (https://presentsimpleesl.wordpress.com/tag/present-perfect-continuous/)

I’m sorry I haven’t called you, I haven’t been feeling well lately.

So I wonder whether we can use Present Perfect Progressive to demand an explanation/excuse for something? I've only seen it in Present Perfect Simple, not Progressive, so is this possible?

What have you done to my computer? Why can't I turn it on now? (I see this one a lot).
What have you been doing to my computer? Why can't I turn it on now?

  • Yes, because presumably the action continues into the present, according to the speaker. But either could be used, different emphasis in each case.
    – Lambie
    Aug 3, 2020 at 15:37
  • @Lambie Could you explain the different emphasis?
    – anouk
    Jul 2, 2021 at 19:29
  • "What have you done" tells us this is in the past but not WHEN. "Have been doing" means that up to the time of speaking the action has continued.
    – Lambie
    Jul 2, 2021 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


Yes, that's perfectly fine and natural. There's a slight difference in what it emphasizes, just like you said. "What have you done" emphasizes that one important thing in particular may have been done, "what have you been doing" emphasizes the actions over time that they may have been taking.

  • Oh, this is new to me. Thank you so much. Aug 5, 2020 at 14:55

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