Which one of these sentences is right, the perfect simple or the perfect continuous?

A: Have you ever worked in a factory?
B: No, never!


A: Have you ever been working in a factory?
B: No, never!

3 Answers 3


The first answer is correct because the first speaker, let's call him Bob, wants to know something about the second speaker's life experience, whom we shall call Alice. For example,

Bob: Have you ever lived in Madrid?
Alice: No, never!

Bob wants to know whether Alice at some point in her life lived in Madrid. Maybe she has Spanish relatives, maybe she is a bohemian and has lived in several different cities in her lifetime, whatever the pretext, Bob wants to know about Madrid. At this stage, he is not interested in knowing "when" she lived there, only if she did. He must, therefore, be fairly certain that Alice is not currently living in Madrid.

Now, Bob asks Alice a second question, using the PRESENT PERFECT again.

Bob: Have you ever worked in a factory?
Alice: No, never!

The structure of the question is the same, Bob is asking about a specific situation that Alice may or may not have experienced at any time up to ‘now’. Alice replies that she has never worked in a factory, it is an experience which she didn't have in the PAST. Had she replied differently

Alice: Yes, I have! (= I have worked in a factory)

This would mean that Alice, at a specific point in her life, worked in a factory. But Bob wouldn't know ‘when’, so he might inquire further with any one of the following questions, using the SIMPLE PAST:

Bob: When was that?
– How long did you work there?
– Where did you work?
– What was the name of the factory? etc.

On the other hand, if Alice is currently working in a factory, she might reply:

– Actually yes, I do work in a factory
– Actually, I am a factory worker.
– Didn't you already know? I work in a factory.
– Funny you ask me that, I'm actually working in a factory at this moment.

In which case, Bob could dig deeper, using the PRESENT PERFECT CONTINOUS construction, and ask Alice

How long have you been working there?

The PPC is often used in questions asking about the duration of an action or situation that is perceived to be temporary in nature, it is preferred when the speaker wants to emphasize the continuation of an activity, but the Present Perfect can also be used if the speaker interprets the situation or act as being more permanent.

Bob: “How long have you worked there?”
Alice: ”Ever since I left school.”
– “Since I was 16.”
– “For about twenty years.”


These tenses are easy to understand if you think of a timeline. When you speak is 0 or now or the present. So, today, now, you say: Have you ever worked in a factory? Yes/No. It's general, in the past, at no specific past time up until the "moment of speaking".

There is no need to use /been working in a factory/ unless you are trying to say:

Have you been working in a factory WHEN your child became ill? The /have been working/ implies some ongoing past event on the timeline.

Example: Have you ever been riding a bicycle when it started to rain? The have been + ING is usually for a continuous action up to the point of another action that is a simple past action.

That said, both the sentences are technically grammatical.

Have you ever been working in a factory on a Sunday before [spoken to you on a Sunday while you are working].

  • Present perfect is in general not used in narrative structures, or in consequent events in the past. "Were you working in a factory when your child became ill?" would therefore be a much better way to say it. Apr 28, 2016 at 7:10
  • @Random Dude I have taught English for many, many years. Look at the other answer: "Both tenses are used to express that an action began in the past and is still going on or has just finished." Clearly wrong. Narrative structures? The question is not about "narrative structures". It's about whether one can say or write the two sentences. But I guess some people have no imagination. Have you ever been concentrating very hard when.....
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2016 at 12:38

Question 1 is the correct answer:

Have you ever worked in a factory? No, never

Both tenses are used to express that an action began in the past and is still going on or has just finished. In many cases, both forms are correct, but there is often a difference in meaning: We use the Present Perfect Simple mainly to express that an action is completed or to emphasise the result. We use the Present Perfect Progressive to emphasise the duration or continuous course of an action. Here are examples:

Have you ever worked in a factory? Or Have you been working in the factory all the day ?

Check this, what you are looking for is at question 4, you will find the answer as well. http://www.englishdaily626.com/verbs.php?020

  • 2
    No, have you ever [past participle] is not used to express an action that is still going on. It expresses an action that is finished, that was in the past and that is an unspecific time in the past. Have you eaten cheese on Mondays? (just in the past, not specific).versus Did you eat cheese last Monday. (specific)
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2016 at 12:40

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