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My English book has the following exercise:

Which is correct?

  • I've been working here since 1999.
  • I've worked here since 1999.

I said that only the first one is correct, but the answer key says that both are correct. I've read the theory and it says that (present perfect + since/for) is for non-action verbs and (present perfect continuous + for/since) is for action verbs.

"To work" is an action verb, hence saying "I've worked here since 1999" should be wrong, isn't it?

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3 Answers 3

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Except for state verbs, you usually use the present perfect continuous for an action happening over a period of time, whereas you use the present perfect simple for a complete action. However the verb "work" (have ajob) like the verb "live" can be used in the continuous and the simple, without any difference in meaning.

So I have been working here since 1999 = I have worked here since 1999.

Both the sentences mean that you are still working here.

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It's a subtle difference, but do think in terms of continuity:

  • "I've been working here since X" implies that you got there during time X, and didn't stop working since then. Like, all the time. Not impossible, but unlikely if X = 1999.

  • "I've worked there since X" implies that this has been your designated place of employment since X. Not that you have spent every single moment night and day in there since X.

Therefore, the second sentence is correct. The first is not strictly incorrect, but unlikely to reflect reality.

Think of the following examples, they are a little bit more clear

  • "I have eaten three apples since this morning" vs.
  • "I have been eating three apples since this morning"

In this case, the first one is correct. Sometime between this morning (doesn't matter exactly when), you picked up and ate the first apple. Sometime later, you ate the second one. And a bit later than that, you ate the third. On the other hand, the first one implies that you spent all your time since the morning eating (continuously) these three apples. Maybe you nibbled them very slowly one after the other? Maybe you stuffed them all into your mouth at the same time and it took you until now to actually swallow them down? Which one of the above sentence is most likely to reflect what actually happened?

Another example:

  • I have waited here for you all day. vs.
  • I have been waiting here for you all day.

Now, here, both are correct, the difference is in the emphasis. The first is a simple statement of fact. The second one means: "I did not do anything else all day apart from sit there and wait for you, all the time (the continuity thing again)". Choose the one that is most appropriate for the situation. In most cases, it tends to be the second one.

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    I think the difference is even more subtle than you suggest. In colloquial American English, many people use "I've been working here since 1999" and "I've worked here since 1999" interchangeably. In American English, the concept of a person working at a job includes the concept of taking time off between shifts, for weekends, for holidays, for sick time, for vacations, and for any other normal work interruptions that go with the job.
    – Jasper
    Nov 29, 2015 at 19:08
  • ""I've been working here since X" implies that you got there during time X, and didn't stop working since then. Like, all the time. In US English it does not imply anything like that. The two sentences are equivalent in meaning.
    – stangdon
    Nov 30, 2015 at 16:12
  • Yes, for the specific example, they are also (almost) equivalent in meaning in UK English too. In general though, past perfect and past perfect continuous are not equivalent in meaning, they exist as distinct tenses for a reason. Dec 1, 2015 at 9:10
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For three verbs work . Live and study present perfect and present perfect continuous can be correct they mean the same

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