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Murphy's Intermediate Grammar test:

Jack ____ in New York for ten years. Now he lives here.

  1. lived

  2. has lived

  3. has been living

Use of "has" and "has been" in English is pretty similar to Spanish, where you could use any of the three answers. And even though I know the rule is "if the action has already passed use simple past" the last two sound right to me too. I would use the second specially if I want to convey the idea that he was leaving there until now, until recently or that it wasn't long ago. I might even want to emphasize that it has been a period of time, a long period, and for that I could also use the third option...

Murphy's book only accepts A as correct. It might be the most frequent use, but isn't it too strict to be the only one? If I'm totally or mostly wrong, what am I missing?

1

It would be easier to read the sentence pair if 'here' was unambiguously differentiated from 'New York'—for example by saying 'in Chicago' instead of 'here'.

Having said that, all three (A, B, and C) can be correct.

A Jack lived in New York for ten years. Now he lives here (in Chicago).

'Lived' seems and is obviously correct, as we are talking about a completed past action that took place entirely in the past (even if it lasted ten years) and cannot include present time. Here the ten years and now are mutually exclusive times.

B Jack has lived in New York for ten years. Now he lives here (in Chicago).

Jack has at some point in his life lived in New York for a total of ten years in the past, either all at once or over several periods. And now he lives in Chicago. The ten years is all in the past and excludes now. These two statements are just two statements, and aren't necessarily connected other than by topic matter. Jack could also have lived in Sao Paolo immediately before moving to Chicago.

C Jack has been living in New York for ten years. Now he lives here (in Chicago).

The present perfect continuous or progressive can refer to recently completed actions that one is no longer doing. Example: I've been out running for an hour; now I'm home. Thus, the present perfect continuous can refer to the most recent ten years prior to moving to Chicago.

2

Yes, only A is correct. B and C imply that the action (living in New York) is ongoing, so they only make sense if Jack is currently living in New York. The context is important here. It would be OK to say "Jack has lived in New York" (without "for 10 years"), which just means that Jack lived in New York at some time or times in the past. Adding "for 10 years" means that the action ongoing.

  • "Jack has lived in New York" means Jack is still living in NY since "has" is the present tense. If you want to make this past tense then "Jack had lived in New York." With had it isn't clear if living in NY was in distant past or recent past. If he recently moved then "Jack had lived in New York, but he just moved here." – MaxW Mar 13 '16 at 2:40
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    MaxW's comment isn't quite right. There are multiple types of perfects, and an experiential interpretation does not imply that Jack still lives there. Compare: ① "Jack has lived in New York for two years now." Jack still lives in New York. ② "Jack has lived in New York, Paris, and London, but now he lives in Berlin." Jack no longer lives in New York. – snailcar Mar 13 '16 at 6:42
  • (@V.V. too) Guau, This is quite shocking to me. I lived in California for 30 months (this is not a grammar example) and I didn't think I had a problem with this (I was at a very good university), but maybe the present perfect is not so similar in Spanish and I created my own English version unaware of how people might have just been surreptitiously/politely translating it ... / Yet I learnt that the pres. perfect is used as in Spanish, for something that have just finished, and Jack could have perfectly just moved here now... – Martin Mar 13 '16 at 10:38
  • @snaiboat and MaxW Indeed I hadn't see any of use of the present perfect for an ongoing situation. If you see [link] (englishpage.com/verbpage/presentperfectcontinuous.html), for example, it is always used for something that has finished now. So even "Jack has lived in New York for two years now." would sound strange to me...as without the "now" the action would have definitively finished. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say "... has been living in NY for 2 y now" which would transmit the idea of continuation? – Martin Mar 13 '16 at 10:52
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    Maybe I should I create a question out of my comments in "English Language & Usage" community? Or it is indeed pretty clear that what I'm saying is wrong and it just sounds reiterative? – Martin Mar 14 '16 at 16:00
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I can see why the sentences seem to be confusing. The author mentions the period of time here. But the second sentence is more important in the situation (Now he lives here). It proves that the action in the first sentence is not going on any more. You shoud use past simple.

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