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They have been doing no work this afternoon.

Or

They had been doing no work this afternoon.

Provided the time specified 'afternoon' elapsed.

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    Speaking the same day, you would use have. Speaking at a later date, you would use had with that (or yesterday) afternoon. Sep 10, 2020 at 14:49
  • I mean it's the same day but the speaker communicates this after the 'afternoon' has passed.
    – user121952
    Sep 10, 2020 at 14:54
  • As I said in my previous comment, you would still use have. Sep 10, 2020 at 14:57
  • 1
    If the afternoon is finished, then both sentences are wrong. "They did no work this afternoon" or less formally, "They weren't doing any work this afternoon."
    – gotube
    Jul 17, 2021 at 19:38

1 Answer 1

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'They have been doing no work this afternoon.'

As Kate Bunting has commented, the 1st one, as shown above, is appropriate.

Use 'had' only if the events happened on days past.

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