If you go to church every Sunday for twenty years, you have evidence that you are religious. If you study biology for one hour every night, you have evidence that you are studious. Atomic Habits: the life-changing million-copy #1 bestseller

It's a real example from a book.

Why is it not "If you've been going to church every Sunday for twenty years, you have evidence that you are religious"?

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    The source isn't trying to teach you how to use Present Perfect Continuous verb forms, and there's no requirement to do so in the cited context, so I don't see anything to "explain" here. As ever, the underlying "problem" is that too many non-native speakers are too obsessed trying to incorporate Perfect verb forms into their English. Whereas if anything, native speakers tend to avoid unnecessarily complex verbs. Commented May 22, 2021 at 17:14
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    That would be a perfectly valid way to say it, but not the only correct way! Commented May 22, 2021 at 18:35

1 Answer 1


The present tense can be used to express facts. In the if-then construction they give a fact which has a consequence:

If Mary is a child, she can't drive a car.

In your example it expresses the general fact "If (anyone) goes to church for twenty years...then (consequence)". This is sometimes called a "zero conditional". The duration indicates the range of time of which this simple fact is supposed to be true.

If Mary paints a picture every day for twenty years, she must love art.

It could also have been expressed using the present perfect, which would seem to make the sentence more specific to the individuals in the conversation.

But in the book the author is addressing the reader. The author is giving a condition and a consequence, and so the present tense is indicated.


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