have you been wearing my sweater? It’s dirty and it smells terrible!

Your hair looks different. have you dyed it?

The first sentence is continuous (have been wearing), the other is simple (have you dyed). Why? Both sentences have evidence of an action (the speaker can imagine but he has not seen it). The sweater is dirty and smells terrible and the hair is different. So why not "have you been dying"?


Present perfect continuous is used about a) something that started in the past and is still happening, or b) a continuous action which has recently stopped.

"have been wearing" is appropriate for the first sentence because it is a continuous action which has recently stopped.

The dying is a single completed action. Even though the consequence- "your hair looks different"- is still in force, you should use the simple perfect.

Your hair looks different. have you dyed it?

If your friend had been repeatedly dying his or her hair over a period of time, and as a result the hair was a total mess, it would be OK to say

Your hair looks different. have you been dying it?

  • I would suggest that "have been dying" refers to a prolonged activity rather than to the result. Therefore, it would be appropriate in a question like "You were at the hairdresser's for a long time today. Have you been dying your hair?" but "your hair looks different" doesn't relate to a prolonged activity so it doesn't seem appropriate. – laugh Mar 24 '16 at 17:11
  • Agreed, @laugh: "your hair looks different" does not relate to prolonged activity: that's why it's present simple. On the other hand, "Have you been dying it?" in my second example does relate to prolonged (or repeated) activity, and that's why it's in present perfect continuous. – JavaLatte Mar 24 '16 at 17:45

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