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I have been studying the difference between the present perfect continuous and the present perfect. I have read different opinions about these sentences:

She has been teaching English for two years
She has taught English for two years

According to some native speakers both are correct, but I also read that "She has taught English for two years" is unnatural and the present perfect continuous is a better option.

The same about "study;" I have read that the first is more natural:

She has been studying English for two years
She has studied English for two years

Should I consider both options as correct and use what most native speakers think is correct, which is either the present perfect continuous or the present perfect with "study" and "teach"? Is this the difference between BrE and AmE?

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    This has been dealt with on this site in multiple questions. However, please note that the BrE/AmE issue is irrelevant here. The meanings of both forms are the same in both varieties of English. Both forms are correct; but they mean different things.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15 at 15:52
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  • Don't they mean the same in present perfect and progressive that the person is still teaching and studying with "for"? 1. "She has been teaching English for two years. 2. "She has taught English for two years." 3. "She has been studying English for two years." 4 "She has studied English for two years". Jul 15 at 17:18
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    Antonia, they do not mean the same thing. Go back and reread my examples. And then you come back here and tell me the distinctions I made in my examples in the links above. Please do not repeat the questions. Thanks.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15 at 17:23
  • I read them and the only difference I see is that the present perfect progressive is used when we describe an ongoing situation. The present perfect can refer to an ongoing action but when it is used with "for". Is that right? Do I understand correctly? You said my original sentences mean different things. What is the exact difference? Is it that the present perfect progressive unlike the present perfect emphasizes an ongoing action? Jul 15 at 17:30
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  1. She has been studying English for two years.

This emphasizes studying as an ongoing or uninterrupted activity up until the present time of speaking. It is also true now unless otherwise specified.

  1. She has studied English for two years. (She is still studying it now.)

The present perfect in this case just tells us she started at some point in the past and it is still true now. As far as we can tell, she is still studying it.

Compare that to: She studied English for two years.

Feel the difference?

The meaning is NOT exactly the same. The emphasis is different.

That same difference exists without for:

  • She's been playing the cello all afternoon.
  • She's played the cello all afternoon.

Important: the afternoon is not over at the time of speaking. The first emphasizes the activity and the second tells us it started in the past and is still true (the afternoon is not yet over in both cases).

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    That was a mistake. I fixed it.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15 at 18:03
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    @AntoniaA It applies to any active (action) verb. In both cases, the activity continues. The difference is one emphasizes the activity and the other just lets you know it started in the past.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15 at 18:13
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    I understand your difficulty in understanding the perfect tenses. If you add a duration "I have been studying for two years" always means I am still studying. To me " I've studied for two years" also means I'm still studying. But it is possible to say something like "I have studied for two years" as an experience in the past, but I find that very confusing. So if you are not studying anymore, I would use past simple: "I studied for two years. "She taught English before she started teaching French".
    – anouk
    Jul 15 at 19:39
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    @Anouk, "I have studied for 2 years." is never "an experience in the past". It means it started in the past at a moment that is not specified and true at the time of speaking.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15 at 23:12
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    @Lambie Is it possible at all to use present perfect simple plus duration for a past action? For example: "they have studied for three weeks", can this be used when they have finished studying?
    – anouk
    Jul 16 at 10:44

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