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In the following text:

A: I'm sorry I'm late.

B: That's OK. I _______________ long.

I answered

haven't waited

but the correct answer is

haven't been waiting

Could you explain the difference between the two?

English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy Additional exercises 14-7

1 Answer 1

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It's funny, I just gave this explanation to another user.

You're problem isn't English. Your problem is that you failed to give the answer expected by the book.

There are many grammatically correct ways to fill in that blank. For example:

  • I haven't been waiting long.
  • I haven't waited long.
  • I wasn't waiting long.
  • I didn't wait long.
  • I wasn't standing here reading a book for very long.

But only one of those examples was appropriate for your exercises. At a guess, the book was testing your knowledge of the Present Perfect Continuous tense — but that wasn't what you used.

Remember, it's not enough to be grammatically correct, you must also be contextually correct. Flip a page or two back in the book and read again what was being taught.

Cheers, and thanks for asking!

BTW: The difference between the two is that the answer the book wanted implies the respondent is still waiting when asked the question. The answer you gave implies that the waiting ended sometime before the question was asked. It's a very small difference, but important!

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