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I have been studying all day.

  • This is the normal (and most common) way to say that I have been studying all day and now I am tired etc.

However I often meet with sentences like:

I have studied all day.

The two sentences above are perfectly normal however the thing I am struggling with is that sometimes present perfect simple "version" is not acceptable and I don´t know why. For example "I have written letters all day" is the sentence which I was told was not correct - don´t really understand what makes that huge difference compare to the sentence "I have studied all day".

I´ll give you another examples I did with my teacher:

I have used this racket (tennis racket) for 10 years.

( Now I will start using a new type) - in her opinion this sounds ok and could be used

I have used this phrase for months and nobody has ever told me it wasn't correct English.

  • Here,for some reason, my teacher definitely wouldn't use present perfect simple and would prefer to use present perfect continuous - again - I don´t see much difference between this sentence and the one above.

Would it be possible to explaing me, please, why sometimes one sentence is possible and another is not even though they are very similar to each other. I´d really like to learn to use this "strange" use of present perfect simnple.

Thank you very much!

marked as duplicate by Alan Carmack, ColleenV, Nathan Tuggy, JavaLatte, Em. Aug 7 '16 at 19:34

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    The difference between the first examples, and between I have written letters all day and I have been writing letters all day is very slight. Certainly, none of them are "unacceptable." There is no difference between I have used this phrase for months and I have been using this phrase for months in the context of that sentence. Is your teacher a native English speaker? Try this link. – P. E. Dant Aug 7 '16 at 7:43
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As P.E. Dant has observed these differences are very slight; your meaning would surely be understood no matter which you chose. Contrast this with mistakes such as confusing "interested" and "interesting" that sound very odd to native speakers.

If we do some ngram analysis we see that generally speaking have studied is much more commonly used than have been studying. However, this pattern changes when we extend the context.

First, consider the case when we specify what we are studying, for example English. The preference for have studied is marked.

However when we specify for how long we studied the pattern is markedly different - there are no examples of using studied, all use have been studying.

So my tentative conclusion: when the focus is on the period of activity use the have been form.

  • Thank you very much! What I am going to ask you would help me incredibly. Could you create a context for me where "things" like "have written letters all days", "I have used this phrase for months" and "I have used this racket for 10 years" would fit perfectly? I would copy them, print them a show them to my teacher tomorrow. – user36394 Aug 7 '16 at 14:08
  • I'm sorry, no time for this. I don't fundamentally disagree with your teacher. I have been trying to show that "have been" somehow seems better when we are talking about time, and I think that was the context of your original question. – djna Aug 7 '16 at 14:35

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