What does Present perfect with time phrase 'since' or 'for' imply? The action is still continuing or the action is finished?

It is confused with the tense 'present perfect continuous' since this also expresses with time phrases 'since' or 'for' to indicate action is still continuing?

I would like to know in detail what is the difference between both tenses if both contain time phrases 'since' or 'for' and how to choose between them.


1a. I have waited for him since morning.

1b. I have been waiting for him since morning

2a. He has washed the car for 2 hours.

2b. He has been washing the car for 2 hours.

3a. I have watched TV for a long time.

3b. I have been watching TV for a long time.


3 Answers 3


Let us be clear about time phrases beginning with "SINCE" and "FOR".

SINCE/FROM refers to POINT OF TIME (10 a.m./year1940/Monday last)

FOR refers to PERIOD OF TIME (10 hours/ 3 days/ 4 months)

They have nothing to do with tenses. However, they assume special importance as 'perfect continuous' form of tenses specially demands mention of time factor.

" Since/for/ from" can safely be used in any other tenses if their presence can by no means disturb the basic concepts of time element of tenses in use.

As regards Present Perfect Tense, it is not a self contained tense; as if it expects some thing else of undefined nature. (e.g., I have sat for the exam.--just completed action--expecting may be result, may be outcome, may be any thing else) We may use since and from here as well.


In the examples you provided, in those particular scenarios all of the present perfect tense usages are incorrect. You are good going with present perfect continuous tense, i.e the "b" examples.

Present perfect tense is about whether something has been true before until now. Note that it does not mean such thing is continuous, e.g. "I have watched this movie before". I was not watching it yesterday, and I am not watching it. But "I have been living in the U.S. for 10 years" means I moved to the U.S. 10 years ago and 10 years later I am still living here.

As for "for" and "since", "for" refers to a range of time (number of hours, number of days) while "since" refers to a starting point in time (this morning, two years ago).

  • 1
    Thanks for the reply but I have a doubt on your reply "Present perfect tense is about whether something has been true before until now. Note that it does not mean such thing is continuous" since in many grammar books meaning of following sentences is mentioned as "action is still continuing" E.g. I have worked here for 10 years, I have lived here for 15 years, I have played Guitar since I was in school, I have studied English for last 2 years. etc.
    – Anma
    May 2, 2015 at 4:36
  • If you want to be idiomatically correct and indistinguishable from a native speaker then use PPC. "I waited for you" implies that the waiting came to an end because it isn't continuous present.
    – Peter Wone
    May 21, 2015 at 2:26
  • @Anma: Your comment is correct. "I have waited since morning." and "I have been waiting since morning." are both grammatically valid but mean different things. Let me know if you want me to write an answer.
    – user21820
    Jan 9, 2022 at 12:19

Present perfect continuous is used to emphasise an action that started in the past. For finished actions, we use the present perfect simple.

In your sentences there's no much difference when using for, the continuous form is used for emphasise the action.

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