# Usage of present perfect continuous and present perfect simple in specific context

I got the following text in an exam:

...Ben has been handing out 'Food Justice' leaflets to people all morning. The march started at 9 a.m. Since then, over 1,000 people have followed/have been following a 4 km route, armed with banners and shopping bags! ‘I have not walked very far yet,’ says Ben, ‘but I have been carrying heavy shopping - it's tough!’ But it's something Ben is used to, because...

I also added some context, which, I think, is necessary to determine which option (have followed or have been following) to use.

Most students in the class have selected the second option since Ben has not completed the route yet. This, however, has been an incorrect choice, according to our teacher.

She explained that every time there is a number in a sentence, we ought to use present perfect continuous. Does that mean that the following would be correct?

1,000 people have handed out leaflets all morning.

It does not even sound naturally. Was our teacher correct when she said that the correct option was have followed? If it is so, why?

• I don't know where your teacher has got that idea from! I would interpret "1000 people have followed the route" as meaning that all of them completed the 4 km (unlikely!) and "have been following" as meaning that many of them are still walking. Commented Jan 19 at 16:24
• So, you think both are possible, but the one with have been following is more likely? Commented Jan 19 at 17:07
• Well, we don't know how long ago 9 a.m. was, but I think it's a more likely scenario that not all thousand have done the whole 4 km! Commented Jan 19 at 19:01

Many of the things that have been suggested here are wrong. Let's start with the biggest:

[My teacher] explained that every time there is a number in a sentence, we ought to use present perfect continuous.

That's a very odd idea and definitely isn't true for all situations. I can't even imagine why she might say that. You can use whatever tense you want with singular, or plural, or even a specific number of people. You would choose the tense based on what you mean, not on having numbers in the sentence. Like "1,000 people have followed this video channel" OR "1,000 people are following this video channel."

Most students in the class have selected the second option since Ben has not completed the route yet.

But the sentence isn't about Ben, it's about a group of a thousand people. Whether Ben has finished or not has no bearing on this sentence.

The fact is, the question was flawed because there's no way to pick an answer. "Have followed" is right if 1,000 people have crossed the finish line; "have been following" is right if they're still walking (it would even be okay use it if some of them are still walking, since we're handling them as a group). There's no way even to make a reasonable guess since we know they started at 9 a.m. but not how much time has passed since then.

"1,000 people have handed out leaflets all morning." It does not even sound natural.

That's not really for a grammar reason, just because of the word choice. "All morning" is a span of time, so we would probably use it in a sentence where we're talking about what happened during that time, like "have been handing out." But without "all morning," "1,000 people have handed out leaflets" makes perfect sense. (And so would "1,000 people have been handing out leaflets.")

• I thought that Ben is probably part of the 1,000 people which means that they have not finished the route, thus they were still walking at the time Ben was speaking. Commented Jan 19 at 17:11
• @Aturtl3 That's a reasonable speculation, since he talks about walking, but in no way guaranteed. Maybe 2,000, or 10,000 would walk that day! The fact that Ben isn't done doesn't tell us whether 1,000 people are done or not. Commented Jan 19 at 18:19