1

A friend of mine is having driving lessons.

Can I ask him both?

How long have you been having driving lessons?

or

How long have you had driving lessons?

3

Often, the present perfect is quite flexible in this type of situation. You can use the progressive form, or not. For example:

I have lived here for 10 years

sounds just as good as

I've been living here for 10 years

However, certain situations (and certain verbs) require a little more care. In your example, the second option sounds horribly clunky. This is because you are using the verb "have" to mean "do/perform/execute", which are dynamic uses*. As such, you will need to use the present perfect progressive form to highlight the repeated/regular action of "doing driving lessons". (Imagine that driving lessons take place on a regular basis, say, weekly.) As such, the correct option is

How long have you been having driving lessons?

*(If you were using "have" to mean "own/possess" (a stative use), then the situation would be different: How long have you had your dog?)

2
  • Divine! Thanks for the explanation! I really appreciated it! Mar 14 '15 at 11:36
  • Cheers people. Glad it helped/provided insight/was enjoyed :)
    – JMB
    Mar 26 '15 at 9:11
1

'Have' cannot be used in the continuous form when it means 'own' or 'possess'. So, you must say 'How long have you had (owned) your car?' 'Do you have a pet?' 'I have a lot of friends'. This is because 'have' with this meaning is a stative verb - it describes a state or condition.

'Have' can be simple or continuous when it is an active verb - it describes and action. This is seen in expressions such as 'have a coffee', 'have a good time', have a shower' and so on. e.g. 'They are having dinner' - describes the action of eating. 'My neighbours are having a party' - describes the actions of dancing, listening to music, eating, drinking, etc.

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