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I think sentence 1 is incorrect, but 2 is correct (though I doubt 2); 3 is incorrect, but 4 is correct. Do you think so? I can't explain the reason. Can you please tell me why?

  1. I have been reading ten books since last month.

  2. I have been reading a lot of/several books since last month.

  3. I have been drinking three cups of coffee since this morning.

  4. I have been drinking a lot of coffee since this morning.

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  • They all sound equally wrong.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:00
  • I would say "I have been reading a lot of books this month", but not "since last month". I think we might have some good answers here about the use of the past present progressive here that can explain it better than I could.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:34
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    @Astralbee - Not to me! (2) - with a lot - and (4) are both idiomatic to me, though I find it hard to explain why. The continuous tense seems to go with the vague 'a lot' but not with a specific number, or with several which implies 'an unspecified small number'. Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:38
  • @KateBunting There's just such ambiguity. "I have been reading a lot of books since last month"... did you start some of the books before last month? When did it become a lot of books? Do you mean you started all of the books last month, or just ones that tipped it over to become "a lot"? It isn't natural, I wouldn't say it, I can't think of anyone that would, and I'd have a lot of questions if they did.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:52
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    "I have been drinking three cups of coffee since this morning." They are all lined up on the kitchen counter and I take a sip from each in turn. Now, they are all cold. What a pity. I do love my coffee cup line-up but can't seem to keep them warm. Maybe I should buy three coffee cup warmers so they stay warm.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 17:15

2 Answers 2

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Number 3 (the three cups of coffee) is the tough one. Three books might be read concurrently, but cups of coffee are usually drunk sequentially!

[1] I have been reading ten books since last month: Don Quixote, Faerie Queene, Pamela, How To Be Both...

[2] I have been reading a lot of/several books since last month when someone called me illiterate.

[4] I have been drinking a lot of coffee since this morning when my doctor told me I was caffeine-deficient.

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  • Thank you very much. [1] I have been reading ten books since last month: Don Quixote, Faerie Queene, Pamela, How To Be Both... Does it mean I was reading the ten books simultaneously?
    – Stephen
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 2:53
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    Yes, simultaneously. And you started reading them last month. (By the way, if you were to say, I've been reading ten books for the last month it would mean you started reading them about four weeks ago.) Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 8:07
  • Though, the point here is that you are in the process of reading all these books. The process began last month. The process hasn't finished yet. Everything else depends on the semantics of the utterence. Ten books are too much for reading for the period implied.
    – kngram
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 13:12
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They all sound awkward, but part of that is your use of since, especially since last month in the first two examples. I would replace that with for the last month. It even makes the first sentence sound OK:

I have been reading 10 books since for the last month.

It implies that you have been concurrently reading 10 different books. (Perhaps you're taking 5 classes and you have 2 books assigned for each class)

I have been reading a lot of/several books since for the last month.

Presumably, you finished one and then started the next, but it doesn't have to be that way.

I have been drinking 3 cups of coffee since this morning. (probably wrong)

It means you've been concurrently drinking 3 different cups of coffee this morning. It's not something you would commonly hear anyone say.

I have been drinking a lot of coffee since this morning.

This is good as you've written it. However, it's less awkward if you eliminate the word since:

I have been drinking a lot of coffee this morning.

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