Perfect continuous tenses

English language learning: Grammar, Composition, Vocabulary & Pronunciation


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Perfect continuous tenses implies the following things;

  • Continuity of verbal action for certain time.
  • Continuity of verbal action till the moment of utterance if the sentence is present perfect continuous.
  • Continuity of verbal action for certain time in past if it is past perfect continuous.
  • Continuity of verbal action in future time situation if the sentence is future perfect continuous.

It means the situation shows both continuity and completion of verbal action and that is why it is called perfect continuous tense.

It is owing to the two situations in a sentence that there are two auxiliary verbs used together which is explained below.

Auxiliary Function
have / had to show completion of verbal action
been the past participle form of be, is, am, are that shows continuity of verbal action for certain time.

Thus the sentences will be like;

  • You have been teaching here for two years.
  • They had been following us.

In perfect tenses we have observed that past participle form is always used after have, has or had and it is because of this that we have to use been which is past participle form of be, like; have been, has been, had been.

For future perfect continuous we have to use shall or will as mentioned in previous chapters. Shall is used with first person pronouns whereas for others subjects we shall use will. For more details regarding the uses of shall and will you better go to the chapter of simple tenses.

Since in this tense we have to show continuity of verbal action for certain time hence we have to use present participle (–ing) form of the main verb.

  • I have been working here for ten years.
  • He had been living here since he was ten.
  • They had been investigating for two and a half months.

Use of auxiliaries in present, past and future perfect continuous tenses

If you look at the names of verbs you will see that first from is called present and second is past. It is by here that we get to know which form of auxiliaries are used in present and past perfect continuous tenses. Use first form of auxiliary verb in present perfect continuous and second  form of auxiliary verb in past perfect continuous as defined below.

Auxiliary Tense
have been / has been Present perfect continuous
had been Past perfect continuous

As it is explained already in previous chapters that verb in English language doesn’t stand for future hence we have to use modal operators (shall and will) for future perfect continuous tense.

More details of auxiliaries

Has been is used with the subjects like; he, she, it and singular noun in present time situation. Have been is used with the subjects like; I, we, you, they and plural noun in present time situation. Had been is used with all subjects in past time situation. Shall have been is used with first person pronouns (I and we). Will have been is used with second person pronoun (you), third person pronoun (he, she, it, they) and singular and plural nouns as subject. Note: Remember whenever you are showing stress on the verbal action in future time situation you have to exchange will and shall. Use will in the place of shall and shall in the place of will.

The use of since and for is associated with perfect continuous tenses. They are treated in another chapter and for the details you must go to Since and for lesson.




Exercises Present Perfect Continuous tense


Exercises Past Perfect Continuous tense


Exercises Future Perfect Continuous tense



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