For the present perfect form of the verb, for example:

I have been living here for four years

I could also say:

I have lived here for four years

I believe in the second example there is some ambiguity as to whether I am still living there now so the first example is better for emphasising that this still continues today.

However I want to ask about the following example:

She has lived in the UK all her life

Why do we use the form "has lived" here, and would it be incorrect to say "She has been living in the UK all her life"? And if that is correct, is there any difference between the meaning of these two sentences?

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    It feels unidiomatic to me, as a native speaker, to say She has been living in the UK all her life (as opposed to for X years, which is fine), but I cannot explain why. Feb 2, 2022 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


If she has been living in the UK her whole life, then there's no ambiguity possible because "her whole life" includes now.

Also, another nuance of present perfect continuous (the "-ing" form) is that it has a feeling of being temporary.

She has been living in the UK...

suggests that she may move somewhere else, whereas

She has lived in the UK...

sounds like it's a permanent situation.

Having lived somewhere your whole life is clearly a permanent situation, so it doesn't fit with the nuance of "temporariness" that comes with the continuous form.


I believe the same ambiguity applies in both situations, though usually the context in which the phrase “has lived” is used indicates how to understand it.

For instance, if you were at the airport and saw a friend who appears to be bringing all of their belongings with them, you might understand the phrase “I have lived here for far too long” to mean that they are now moving away.

On the other hand, if you make a new friend and they tell you, “I have been living here for far too long,” you might understand that to mean that they are somewhat unsatisfied with where they live, but are still currently living there.

To parallel your example, the sentence “She has lived there all her life” doesn’t tell you anything about whether that is about to change or not. On the other hand, the sentence “She has been living there all her life” tells you that at least for right now, she is still living there.

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    I like the answer and mostly agree; however, by saying "she has been living there all her life" you are emphasizing the possibility that the situation might change for some reason. It makes the situation dynamic. Feb 3, 2022 at 0:50
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    I should add that either usage is okay, but showing the dynamics of the situation can be subtly better. Consider: "This tree has been shading this park for a hundred years. Why would they cut it down now?" and "This tree has shaded this park for a hundred years....." The first emphasis the persistence and dynamic aspect and the possibility of change. The second emphasizes the lack of change and the permanence that has been true so far. Feb 3, 2022 at 0:56
  • Thank you for the answers. I have another question related to this. For the sentence "She has lived in the UK all her life" you use the -ed form of the verb. But for the example "She has been married for most of her life" we need "been"-- why is that? Thank you!
    – Jo R
    Feb 8, 2022 at 18:16
  • @JoannaRedman This is because “married” here is used to describe her state of being, instead of being used as a past tense verb. “Marry” is a one-time, non-continuous verb that does not make sense in continuous time frames. You cannot say “She married for 5 years” as that implies that the wedding took 5 years. Thus, “has married for 5 years” is also incorrect; you need the “been” to clarify that “has been” is the verb phrase, and “married” is the adjective. However, “live” is a continuous verb that really only makes sense in continuous timeframes, and so “has lived” is correct. Feb 8, 2022 at 23:55
  • Thank you for that answer. But "marry" can be continuous right, "I am marrying you tomorrow" for example. But we don't use it continuously in the examples "She has been living...." "she has been marrying", right.... Is the example "I am marrying you tomorrow" an outlier example and usually this verb can't be used in a continuous way?
    – Jo R
    Feb 9, 2022 at 19:13

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