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Why do we not say: "I've gardened all day", which would be correct if we have finished gardening but we say: "I've been gardening all day"? We seem to do the same with other action words: cook, sew, clean, wash, etc.

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    1- Saying "I've gardened all day" does not mean I have finished gardening. 2- What makes you say it is different for other action verbs, can you give examples? – Laure Feb 8 '16 at 18:25
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We naturally tend to use Present Perfect Continuous in OP's context partly because it emphasizes the very fact being asserted (that the action has been performed continuously).

But more importantly, OP needs to note that there's nothing at all wrong with, for example, I worked all day. The main reason we're more likely to say I've been working all day is because the Present Perfect form implies a strong connection to the present moment (i.e. - time of speaking). Bear in mind that I've been doing it all day doesn't necessarily imply anything about whether you're still doing it - it just implies that if you're not still doing it, you only stopped very recently.

Thus you wouldn't normally say I've been working all morning in the evening, (unless there's some obvious contextual reason why working continuously several hours ago significantly affects and/or explains your current condition/circumstances).

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    I often use the continuous form to show the cause of something in the present: I've been gardening all day, that's why my hands are dirty. But I don't consider natural saying I've garneded all day, that's why my hands are dirty, do you? – Alejandro Feb 8 '16 at 18:45
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    @Ustanak: In the first place, you've used exactly the same contextual element (all day) as OP, so naturally the continuous form is likely to be favoured. Second, the verb to garden is a fairly unusual usage in any contexts apart from in the continuous form. Thus, even when given a "leading" question such as What did you do yesterday?, native speakers are quite likely to switch the verb form and reply I was gardening rather than I gardened. But that's a bit "verb-specific* - there's nothing remotely "unidiomatic" about I cooked/cleaned [yesterday]. – FumbleFingers Feb 8 '16 at 19:18
  • Oh yes, but if I remove all day, is still the continuous form favoured? – Alejandro Feb 8 '16 at 20:36
  • @Ustanak: Since that's the only "contextualizing context", it's almost meaningless to ask which verb form would be favoured. I imagine every verb form will be favoured in some context or another, but if no context is actually specified, what possible use is it to know that, say, You're quite right is more common than You're quite wrong? – FumbleFingers Feb 8 '16 at 21:47

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