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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
I have been eating (present perfect continuous) vs. I have eaten (present perfect simple)
Tuesday January 7th 2014
Question
I have been eating (present perfect continuous) vs. I have eaten (present perfect simple)
Answer

Question

What is the difference between the present perfect continuous and the present perfect simple?  –Anastasija, Macedonia

Answer 

The difference between the present perfect continuous ("I have been eating") and the present perfect simple ("I have eaten") is that the continuous form of the present perfect focuses on a process, something that has been happening over a recent period of time, while the simple form focuses on the end result of something that happened.

To understand this a little better, compare these two examples:

a) I’ve been eating too much ice cream = on numerous occasions I keep eating more ice cream than I should be eating. 

b) I’ve eaten all of my ice cream. = I finished all of my ice cream.

Example (a), in the continuous form, focuses our attention on a series of events that began in the past, continues into the present, and may extend into the future. It is this continuing series of events which is important. 

Example b), in the simple form, focuses our attention on the current situation or result: that the eating and the ice cream are both finished. 

Here are two additional examples to compare:

c) Jason has been reading a lot of fiction. (Continuous form, with focus on the process of Jason’s reading, which may not be over yet.)

d) Jason has read a lot of fiction. (Simple form, with focus on the result, or what Jason has accomplished. When the reading occurred is not mentioned and is not important.)

 

I hope this helps. 

 
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