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Is it possible to use the present perfect to describe an action that happened earlier today and lasted for some time? As in:

I've slept for 16 hours today and that alone made me happy.

I've been on hold for four hours today! You just lost a frequent customer.

Wouldn't the simple past be more appropriate here, since these actions took place some considerable amount of time before the moment of speaking and are not quite linked to the present?

During my reaserch I only got more confused, as I've even encountered sentences like:

I've been playing the guitar for two hours today.

Which, I believe, is not correct at all?

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, Glorfindel, Em., Nathan Tuggy, Peter Oct 31 '16 at 20:54

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There's nothing inherently incorrect about "I've been playing the guitar for two hours today".

Using the optional Present Perfect Continuous (have been playing) rather than Simple Past (played) or Present Perfect Simple (have played) just emphasises the connection between that past (completed) activity and the current time of speaking.

Without more context we can't tell how long ago the speaker stopped playing the guitar. Obviously it must have been less than 24 hours ago, but we know he can't still be playing because then it would make no sense at all to specify today.

Apart from the oft-repeated dictum that Present Perfect should in general be avoided unless you know you want to force a strong connection to the present, it's worth pointing out what may be obvious - Present Perfect Continuous tends to emphasis the duration of an activity. So if our speaker thinks two hours is a long time to spend practicing, it's perfectly reasonable phrasing.

  • Okay, but can I still use this present perfect continuous construction if the action took place from 2 to 4 p.m., and it's currently 9 p.m.? Doesn't this tense require the action to have been just completed OR still ongoing? That's also my main problem with the two other utterances - if I made the first statement, say, a few hours after waking up rather than a few minutes after doing it, shouldn't I replace it with the simple past? – Bebop B. Apr 4 '15 at 23:42
  • Yes. But your "on hold" example sounds as if the person is still on the phone, so the present perfect is most appropriate. He has been on the phone for two hours, and he still is. If, on the other hand, this is a separate call (to complain to a supervisor?) the simple past would be appropriate. – Brian Hitchcock Apr 5 '15 at 0:38
  • @Brian: I disagree, In OP's examples, including today strongly implies the activities are not currently ongoing (if they were, you'd use already, not today). And if the speaker is complaining to a telephone team supervisor, obviously the activity being referenced is highly relevant to the conversation (it's the very reason for it), so present perfect is a natural choice of verb form. – FumbleFingers Apr 5 '15 at 12:28
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  1. A woman walks in the door and sees her husband with his head stuck under the kitchen sink. What on earth are you doing? she asks him.

I've been trying to fix this leak for two hours.

  1. A guy calls his girlfriend on the phone. He says, "I know you've been studying for final exams all week and that you haven't had much sleep. But your last exam was yesterday, and I was wondering if you wanted to go out for dinner tonight. She says yes, she would like to go out for dinner:

I've slept for sixteen hours and feel completely rested.

Adding "today" to either of these replies is unidiomatic. If you add "today", to the second sentence, you could switch to simple past tense and it would be fine. But the scenario of sentence #1 calls for the continuous, since his head is under the sink. He was still trying to fix the leak when his wife walked in the door.

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