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Context: My friend's come to visit me and I am showing him my new country house (which I am still working on in my free time, haven't finished it yet)

As far as I understand,

I've worked on this house for 2 years

I've been working on this house for 2 years

are practically interchangeable with little difference in meaning. However, if we replace "to work on" with "to build" only the 2nd sentence (i.e. I've been building) will be acceptable

From my understanding, we can't say "I've built my house for 2 years" because "build" is a resultative verb (has a final goal and can be completed, unlike "to work") and will be interpreted as a completed action (i.e. "I started and finished building and I have a house now") which is incompatible with the duration ("for 2 years").

1.Could you please tell me if my explanation is correct?

  1. Could you also comment on the following examples and tell me if my understanding of the logic behind them is right :

I've fixed my car for 2 years

(probably an incorrect sentence. "fix" is a resulative verb, thus it should be changed to "I've been fixing". However,

"I've fixed cars for 2 years"

is correct because plural ("cars") suggests repetitivenes/regular nature of the action, thus making the sentence be interpreted in a correct way. (I started 2 years ago and I'm still doing this job) Although we still can change it into "I've been fixing", we don't have to.

I've played tennis for 3 days

(might be grey area? verb "play" is not resultative, however, the duration might be too short (3 days), thus, it's better to change it into "I've been playing")

I am eager to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you

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  • you're right about the resultative verbs.
    – anouk
    May 2 at 13:37
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    I would consider I've been working on... to be much more idiomatic. May 2 at 14:48
  • It's very simple: the one that says "have been working is stressing the activity itself.
    – Lambie
    May 2 at 19:56
  • It may seem simple to you, Lambie, it's not simple for us learners, trust me.
    – anouk
    May 3 at 11:26
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    I'm not fighting anything, the different tenses are just difficult to grasp sometimes. Also different teachers claim different things, that's what makes it confusing. For me, anyway.
    – anouk
    May 3 at 17:37

1 Answer 1

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In general, I think the distinctions drawn in the question are correct.

I've built my house for 2 years. red X showing incorrect or unnatural form

would not be used by a fluent speaker. However,ome might say:

  • I have been building my house over the past two years. Green Check-mark showing a grammatical and natural form
  • I built my house over the past two years. Green Check-mark showing a grammatical and natural form [But this implies that the house is finished.]
  • I have been trying to build this house for the past two years. Green Check-mark showing a grammatical and natural form
  • I have spent two years so far on building thjis house. Green Check-mark showing a grammatical and natural form [The "so far" implies that it is not yet finished.*]

I've fixed my car for 2 years

could mean "I have so repaired my car that it will last for at least two years." It will not be taken to men 'I have been fixing my car for two years", and it will sound odd at best.

"I've fixed cars for 2 years" Green Check-mark showing a grammatical and natural form

This is a perfectly natural form. It means i have been in the business (or possibly hobby) of fixing cars for a period of two years prior to the present. It does ot imply stopping that practice, and could well be said at a job interview for a position as an auto mechanic.

I agree with you on the tennis example, but

I've played tennis for 3 years.

is natural and means that you startes playing three years ago.

I've played tennis for 3 days

might mean that the speaker only took up tennis for the first time three days ago. That is an unusual but perfectly possible situation.

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  • Thank you. I was hoping you could also comment on "I've fixed cars for 2 years" Let's say I am trying to get a job in a car shop and they ask me about my experience with cars, would it be natural to say "I've fixed cars for 2 years" ? May 3 at 9:26
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    @Dmitriy Yes that would be natural. I have dded it ti the answer. May 3 at 16:30
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    You could also say: "I've been fixing cars for two years".
    – anouk
    May 3 at 17:38
  • If that conversation (the car shop one) is taking place in 2022, does "I've fixed cars for 2 years" imply that I started in 2020? Can it also imply (in that context) that I have overall 2 years of experience in car fixing split along my whole life? May 4 at 8:01
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    @Mr. Past Progressive I think without furhter clarification it would not usually be understood that way. something like "I have two years experience in fixing cars" would be a more usual way to express that thought. But in an actual job interview the applicant's experience would be spelled out in much greater detail. May 4 at 16:39

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